To be fair, much of that is due to leadership and management incompetence on the part of the DOD F-35 program office and the prime vendor, Lockheed Martin. Because there are so many significant engineering defects, real costs in the program are unknown.
The USAF is an important measure of F-35 procurement health. It is on record as the biggest potential buyer at 1763 aircraft. The USAF F-35A variant is also similar to what most foreign partner nations hoped to buy.
If the USAF large volume buy is in trouble, so is everyone else.
For the FY2009 budget, USAF predicted that each aircraft purchased that year (we will use weapons system cost) would be $226M. Then, USAF predicted it would pay $100M for each F-35 in FY2013.
The recently released USAF budget prediction shows that for FY2013, the service expects to pay $181M for each F-35. A cost rise of $81M each from the FY2009 prediction.
In FY2009, the USAF expected to pay $172 billion for 1763 F-35s. For FY2013, the USAF predicts that 1763 F-35s will cost $212B; $40B over the FY2009 prediction.
In FY2009, USAF predicted the average cost of each aircraft would be $90M over the span of the total buy of 1763 aircraft. For FY2013, the USAF expects to pay $120M as an average cost of each F-35 for the programs buy of 1763 aircraft. This rise of 33% in just 4 years spells trouble.
If the USAF wants to stay on budget in relation to its FY2009 prediction, it would have to cut 529 aircraft; leaving 1234 F-35s for the USAFs total program buy.
Where will we be in another 4 years? What will future USAF leaders think of their predecessors when having to budget for a significant tac-air short-fall?
“It’s about $37 million for the CTOL aircraft, which is the air force variant.”
- Colonel Dwyer Dennis, U.S. JSF Program Office, 2002-