Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet, the world’s costliest weapons program, just got even costlier.
The estimated total price for research and procurement has increased by $22 billion in current dollars adjusted for inflation, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual cost assessment of major projects. The estimate for operating and supporting the fleet of fighters over more than six decades grew by almost $73 billion to $1.196 trillion.
The increase to $428.4 billion from $406.2 billion in acquisition costs, about a 5.5 percent increase, isn’t due to poor performance, delays or excessive costs for labor or materials, according to the Defense Department’s latest Selected Acquisition Report sent to Congress last week and obtained by Bloomberg News.
Instead, the increase reflects for the first time the current cost estimates for a major set of upgrades planned in coming “Block 4” modifications, according to the report.
“Ensuring our Block 4 efforts are captured in our acquisition baseline and now in our SAR help us to provide full transparency and status on our F-35 modernization progress,” the Pentagon’s F-35 program office said in an emailed statement.
“The F-35 program remains within all cost, schedule and performance thresholds and continues to make steady progress,” the program office said in its statement. The office “is committed to the delivery of cost-effective warfighting capability across all areas of the program.”
But the long-range cost estimate for operating the fleet from 2011 to 2077 was problematic even before the latest independent Pentagon cost projection of an increase to $1.196 trillion. By contrast, the F-35 program office’s latest estimate declined by about $8.5 billion to $1 trillion. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: It should be noted that the additional $22 billion cost for the Block 4 upgrade only includes U.S. aircraft; aircraft operated by foreign countries will be costed – and paid – separately.)