How Much Does an F-35 Actually Cost? Up to $337 Million—Apiece—for the Navy Version
(Source: War in Boring blog; posted July 27, 2014)
By Winslow Wheeler, Director, Straus Defense Project at POGO)
The F-35 is not just the most expensive warplane ever, it’s the most expensive weapons program ever. But to find out exactly how much a single F-35 costs, we analyzed the newest and most authoritative data.

Here’s how much we’re paying:

A single Air Force F-35A costs a whopping $148 million. One Marine Corps F-35B costs an unbelievable $251 million. A lone Navy F-35C costs a mind-boggling $337 million. Average the three models together, and a “generic” F-35 costs $178 million.

It gets worse. These are just the production costs. Additional expenses for research, development, test and evaluation are not included. The dollars are 2015 dollars. This data was just released by the Senate Appropriations Committee in its report for the Pentagon’s 2015 appropriations bill.

Except for the possibility that the F-35 Joint Program Office might complain that the F-35A number might be a little too low, these numbers are about as complete, accurate and authoritative as they can be.

Moreover, each of the other defense committees on Capitol Hill agree or—with one exception—think each model will be more expensive. The Pentagon’s numbers for these unit costs—in every case—are higher.

The methodology for calculating these F-35 unit costs is straightforward. Both the president’s budget and each of four congressional defense committees publish the amounts to be authorized or appropriated for each model of the F-35, including the number of aircraft to be bought.

The rest is simple arithmetic: Divide the total dollars for each model by the quantity.


(Source: Congressional committees for data, Winslow Wheeler for analysis)


Purchase price

There are just two things F-35 watchers need to be careful about.

First, it’s necessary to add the funding from the previous year’s appropriation act to the procurement money the government allocated for 2015. This is “advance procurement” for 2015 spending, and pays for “long lead” components that take longer to acquire.

Second, we have to add the cost of Navy and Air Force modifications. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the War is Boring blog.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: On the subject of F-35 costs in FY2015, also see “F-35 at F-16 Prices: JPO Still Seeking F-35 Affordability”.)

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