known that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has turned into the most costly
weapons program in history for the armed forces. When complete, multiple
branches of the armed forces will use the F-35 and it will be sold abroad to
The problem for some in Washington is that the delays in delivering the
aircraft are mounting, as are the costs to build and maintain the aircraft over
its lifespan. The F-35 program has been going for ten years now and some in the
Senate Armed Services Committee are now indicating it's time to start looking for a backup plan. Most will find little
sense in considering an alternative to the F-35 when it is finally so close to
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "It seems to me [prudent that] we at
least begin considering alternatives."
The reason some in the Senate want to start looking for alternatives is the
report published last week showing the costs to maintain the F-35 through 2065
spiraling to $1 trillion. Top acquisition official Ashton Carter has maintained
that the $1 trillion figure will be reduced when he completes a
"should-cost" review of the F-35 in the next few months. Carter is
aiming at a 20% to 50% reduction in that $1 trillion figure.
Fox, Director of the Pentagon cost assessment and program evaluation office, is
skeptical of the cost reduction goals.
Fox said, "O&S [operation and sustainment] is hard. Whether we can get
it all the way down to legacy [O&S cost levels] is something that I in my
office doubt.” Fox points to the cost of fuel being hard to reduce over the
life of the aircraft.
Lockheed Martin's general manager for the F-35 program, Tom Burbage, says that
the sustainment costs for the F-35 can’t be fairly compared to the costs of
older aircraft. He says that the F-35 was developed on performance-based
logistics plan that is different from legacy sustainment process. He also notes
that the F-35 O&S estimates are susceptible to ground rules legacy aircraft
are not bound to.