Here’s a surprise, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the common operating platform for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, along with a host of foreign nations, has run headlong into further delays, stretching out the development time and adding costs to what is already the Pentagon’s most expensive program.
According to the most recent Pentagon plans, the military was to buy 2,456 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marines at a cost of about $246 billion. The idea was to get some synergy going between the services on the new somewhat stealthy aircraft and achieve economies of scale to keep the price down on the aircraft. That last goal hasn’t worked out so well.
Since 2002, the F-35 program’s costs have risen by nearly $100 billion. Cost inflation is driven by delays in development, its now two years late, and some weight issues with the Marine’ vertical take off and landing version. According to the ever helpful analysts at the Congressional Research Service, best case scenario is the price tag for an F-35 now sits somewhere between $80 to $100 billion. Expect that price to go nowhere but up, especially now that another year’s delay has been added.
From Defense News’ John Reed:
“The Pentagon's No. 2 official said this week that the jet's development schedule would slip between 12 months and 13 months despite an aggressive restructuring of the program that was announced earlier this month.
"The development was originally projected to last an additional 30 months; we think with the additional test aircraft it will be closer to a delay of about 12 or 13 months, but I can't give you the cost numbers," The Australian newspaper quoted [Deputy Defense Secretary Bill] Lynn as saying during a speech at a shipyard in South Australia. He did not say if this would affect the delivery timeline for the JSF.
Under the Pentagon's restructuring that was announced Feb. 1, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered an additional test jet and $2.8 billion be put into the extended F-35 SDD, withheld more than $600 million in performance fees from Lockheed, cut planes from F-35 acquisition coffers and fired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Heinz, the Pentagon's F-35 program manager.
The Defense Department is requesting $10.7 billion in its 2011 budget to continue development on the F-35 and purchase 43 of the planes.”
The Marines are supposed to begin taking delivery of their first batch of F35Bs in 2012. That's probably not going to happen. I hope they have a good backup plan.