Pop quiz! What is the most expensive weapons project in Pentagon history? If you answered, “the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter”, you would be correct. Pentagon officials have begun their deep dive into the F-35’s cost, trying to find exactly how much the plane should cost, and how to get there.
Director of defense pricing Shay Assad hopes to cut the price from $94.6 million per F-35A to $80 million by 2020. This reduction would primarily come by way of block buying and reduce individual costs through high volume purchases. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, advised against authorizing the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) to order parts in bulk (which would contribute to the cost reduction) until the Department of Defense can solidify their plan for doing so.
Wallet-Busting Wonder Plane
The F-35 is the most technologically advanced multi-role fighter ever. It is designed for of air-to-air, air-to-surface, electronic attack, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions while maintaining stealth capabilities. The F-35’s Helmet Mounted Display Systems provides the pilot unprecedented situational awareness. The system projects vital information onto the display within the helmet itself. The plane’s advanced sensors and cameras also effectively allow the pilot to see through the airframe and utilize night vision without additional equipment.
The F-35 is a marvel, but so is its price. The advanced systems have led to developmental delays, and the cost of the project at large has grown to staggering proportions. When Liberty Nation reported in May about President Trump’s proposed increase in defense spending, the F-35 was seven years behind schedule and $170 billion over budget. Despite President Trump’s boats of reducing the price of the F-35, a GAO report published in April details the need for an additional $1.7 billion due to delays in developmental testing.
How did this happen?
The total lifetime cost of the program is currently $1.5 trillion. Many are quick to point out that this “costs more than the Afghanistan War” and “could pay college fees for all American children for the next 20 years.” To its credit, the lifespan of the program is 55 years, but the price is still much higher than it should be.
The lion’s share of cost overruns has been from developmental delays. With any new technology, errors will occur. The F-35 is no different. The aircraft was plagued with issues preventing takeoff, ejector seat malfunctions, excessive cannon vibration, electronic systems issues, helmet system problems, and problems with delivering oxygen to the pilots. While F-35s have been flying maneuvers around Korea, the number of combat-ready aircraft is considerably lower than it should be. Nearly 200 F-35s are unfit for combat.
Hopefully the Pentagon’s deep dive and President Trump’s “negotiating prowess” can work towards reducing the program’s cost, but the die has long been cast. The topic of fraud, waste, and abuse within the Department of Defense has been a regular topic on Liberty Nation, and the F-35 debacle proves to be another example of why the Pentagon is in desperate need of an audit.
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