Are F-35 Costs Finally Coming Down?
The question looms: Will the F-35 ever be an affordable and viable weapons platform? We don’t know about for sure, but the Pentagon has recently taken over efforts to ensure the F-35 is at a minimum somewhat affordable. The F-35 program has an estimated price tag of around $400 billion with the purchase of around 2,400 air frames to replace older fighters. If you’ve read anything about the F-35’s supposed capabilities, it is nothing short of impressive, but delays and cost overruns have drawn the ire of many politicians. Most notably, President Trump has pushed the DOD to find ways to reduce the costs of the next generation fighter.
The F-35 has already dropped significantly in price as a number of cost-cutting measures have been accepted by both the government and the industry. Despite this, the Pentagon was wary about the source and pace of the savings inspiring a full review of the F-35 program. A $60 million dollar contract was given to Lockheed to pursue more cost-effective ways of production. What’s the benefit of giving them this contract? The Pentagon will have more oversight into how money is spent and where savings are coming from. “Using a contract vehicle instead of an agreement with industry provides the government with greater insights into the cost-saving efforts,” says Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 program office leader.
Hopefully. With China and Russia upping its next-generation fighter force as well, we can hardly stand to waste our time or our money on a boondoggle that won’t pay off or will under-perform. The current model of the F-35, the F-35A, has a price tag of just under $95 million dollars. The initiative to reduce costs is pushing to drop the price by another $15 million dollars. In a statement by Lockheed’s F-35 general manager, Jeff Babione “The government’s decision to fund this next phase of cost-reduction initiatives is a testament to their confidence in our ability to deliver the cost savings, based on the original blueprint for affordability projects.”
So far the current price tag has been dropped by 7.3% from the previous purchase of F-35s. Critics are unmoved by these actions citing that the full costs of an operational F-35 have yet to be seen with future upgrades and modifications. Dan Grazier of the Project on Government Oversight states “There’s very little transparency about it.” Understandable we’ve been hearing about the F-35 for years now and nobody seems to really know where the program is headed except for those at the very top. With any sort of luck, the F-35’s cost and operational status will hopefully be cleared up soon.
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