At the end of what has been a truly positive week for Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter, witnessing a number of key milestones in the aircraft’s test phase, DoD just had to damper the celebration somewhat by releasing updated cost estimates that show the per aircraft price tag has jumped nearly 90 percent since 2001, from $69 million to $135 million.
The current estimate for what the military must pay to buy 2,443 JSF aircraft has increased to $329 billion, from an original estimate of $197 billion for more than 2,800 aircraft (all figures in then year dollars), according to a Pentagon report provided to DOD Buzz.
The jump in the per unit price triggers a Nunn-McCurdy “critical breach,” requiring a “recertification” from Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the fighter is vital to national security. Since Gates has gone way out on a limb in favor of the JSF, that outcome is pretty much guaranteed. The cost estimates come from DOD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office.
The Nunn-McCurdy breach is calculated using constant or base year dollars, which show an increase in JSF unit cost from $50 million in 2001 to $95 million today. Using then year, or inflation adjusted, dollars is a more accurate indication of what the military will actually pay for a weapon.
This week saw the F-35B STOVL version of the JSF complete a first ever hover and first ever vertical landing.