The cost of the F-35 jet program, already the most expensive U.S. weapons program ever, is estimated to climb further, according to figures to be submitted to Congress as soon as Monday.
Total acquisition costs for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s next-generation fighter are expected to rise about 7 percent to at least $406.5 billion, according to figures in a draft document known as a Selected Acquisition Report. That would be a reversal after several years of estimates that have declined to $379 billion currently from a previous high of $398.5 billion in early 2014.
F-35 program spokesman Joe DellaVedova didn’t immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking an explanation for the cost estimate increase. Typically, the F-35 program office has waited until the report is formally released to lawmakers, which could occur Monday, before responding to queries.
Extending production of the 1,763 Air Force versions could be one source of the $27 billion increase in the new cost estimate. The acquisition report will inform Congress that the Pentagon is adding 13 Marine Corp. “B” model short-takeoff-and-vertical landing versions that will increase the total quantity of U.S. jets purchased to 2,456 from the long-standing goal of 2,443.
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The increase in the total acquisition cost estimate may raise eyebrows in the White House, where President Donald Trump has taken an active role in trying to lower costs for individual F-35 jets. Yet the total program increase cited in the report for Congress doesn’t imply higher costs for future contracts.
Nevertheless, the estimated increase comes after the F-35 struggled for years with cost overruns and schedule delays that infuriated Congress. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: The increase in the program’s price was confirmed by Vice Admiral Mat Winter, the F-35 Program Executive Officer, in a release in which he said cost increases were "largely driven by the adjustments made to the U.S. planned production profile," Business Insider reported July 11.
It added that the Air Force “is cutting the number of F-35A models procured yearly to 60 from 80, which pushes out the acquisition range by six more years to fiscal year 2044.”
However, the SAR also states that “the fly away costs for the F-35A, which includes the engine, went to $111.3 million from $100.6 million in the prior year SAR. Costs for the C model rose to $112.4 million from $110.7 million.”
This is an increase of nearly 11% in one year, while the Joint Program Office claims that units costs are decreasing each year.)