Let’s continue our Military spending / Sequester theme today: Pro Publica by the Numbers look at the F-35


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Category: Digital Media, War/Defense

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

23 Responses to “F-35: The Most Expensive Fighter Jet Ever Built”

  1. S Brennan says:

    That would be a big surprise except

    1] Every top-line/multi-role combat aircraft in the history of aviation has cost more than everything that preceded it.

    2] When you cut output*, the cost of tooling, engineering, planning, plant facilities and much of the skilled workforce remains constant, hence, per unit cost rise.

    Thus it has always been, thus it shall always remain for countries that prefer air superiority to disastrous defeat of ground forces. And don’t kid yourself, the F-86 was [arguably] just marginally better than the Mig-15 and it managed a 10:1 ratio. Going into Korea many “experts” thought the F-80 was going to do the job, those experts were wrong.

    *The Pentagon will propose spending about $9.2 billion to buy 29 Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-35 jets in its fiscal 2013 budget, 13 fewer than previously planned, U.S. officials said…The reduction is part of a decision to delay purchasing 179 of the Joint Strike Fighters beyond 2017 to continue development, testing and correction of deficiencies, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday in advance of a Defense Department announcement…Beyond the next budget year, the Pentagon’s previous plan to purchase 62 F-35s in fiscal 2014 is being reduced to 29, according to budget data. The request for 2015 is dropping to 44 from 81, and the planned purchase for 2016 will decline to 61 from 108.


  2. ilsm says:

    11%, the percent of “points” in the F-35 performance specification that have been tested and succeeded. *

    34% of F-35 development testing completed, the next 64% is to be exponentially better than the first third. *

    No date set when the F-35 will be prepared to deliver an initial operating capability (which is likely TBD what Lockheed sends) for any combatant command. *

    $1.2 Billion, the identified cost of the scrap and rework on the first 4 lots of low rate production airplanes. *

    F-35 is being bought before we fly it and find out how bad it is.

    * Mar 2013 GAO 13-309.

  3. willid3 says:

    and reducing orders (aka sales) impacts manufacturing the same way no matter what you build. consider that if one wanted to purchase the parts for any vehicle on the road today, you would be very surprised how much it would cost to buy just the parts. usually at least 10 to 20 times the cost of what you buy at the dealer , minimum.

    the question I would have is why did we wait so long to replace our current planes? all were actually designed back in the late 1960s- and early 1970s. until the f22 was designed in the early 1990s, we had waited 20 years. no wonder we are unable to manage these sort of projects. as it is, the F15 life span is just about over (they keep having to ground them for problems with the frames. because they have too many hours on them). not sure that F16s aren’t in the same boat. F/A 18 is only just a little newer, if actually slower than the others. and its the only one left being built

  4. cuprous says:

    Old Ike must be spinning in his grave.

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. … Is there no other way the world may live?”

    Not a politician in our mix could hold this man’s hat.

  5. stonedwino says:

    F-35: The Most Expensive Fighter Jet Ever Built & it sucks! The military industrial complex is sucking on the government tit – big time. Talk about the perfect place to cut…

  6. rd says:

    Unfortunately, it appears this plane has been turned into a stimulus jobs program instead of a military weapon procurement.

    The only real question about this plane should be “does it do what it is supposed to do?” If it does and it serves for 25 years or so, then the cost overruns will eventually fade into memory.

    If it doesn’t, then it should be scrapped immediately. Inferior weapons weaken, not strengthen us. If it fulfills the role for some of the branches but not others, then reduce the buy and find replacements for the service arms that need them.

  7. James Cameron says:

    > F-35 is being bought before we fly it and find out how bad it is.

    A key characteristic of these big weapons program today is they’re pushed out quickly and broadly so as to make them much more difficult to kill. That’s what helps to drive the cost way up and the numbers produced way down. Despite one of the comments above, these programs are only partially about national defense. See the piece below on the politics behind the F-35. This was posted previously on BP.

    “It was a bait-and-switch operation; we were overpromised benefits and under-promised costs,” said Chuck Spinney, a former Pentagon analyst who gained widespread attention in the 1980s for issuing pointed warnings about the military’s pursuit of unaffordable weapons. “But by the time you realize the numbers don’t add up, you can’t get out of the program.”

    “Instead of meeting the original plan of being about 70 percent similar, the three versions now are 70 percent distinct, which has increased costs by tens of billions and led to years-long delays. “We have three airplane programs running in parallel,” Bogdan said. “They are very, very different airplanes.”

    F-35’s ability to evade budget cuts illustrates challenge of paring defense spending


  8. S Brennan says:

    If you cancel the F-35, not only do you throw away the money spent, you wind up having to upgrade America’s aging fighter fleet, long term you won’t save money, you’ll end up spending more for an inferior result if you save any money at all, it’s all in the very near term.

    One thing this chart does not reflect is the constantly changing government requirements, which speaks to both cost and the inability to meet changing requirements. FYI, this happens on all programs and critics never fail to understand the root cause. Since many critics are of legal training, imagining defending a client where the charges against are changed/dropped/added throughout the course of the trial, forget the morality, would that increase or decrease the time and expense of the defense?

    Also, the plane is not an individual aircraft, it’s an entire product line with part commonality, the military may alter it’s product mix as circumstances warrant, which results in a cost savings over the long run.

  9. boden11 says:

    Ok, I am not the most well versed on historical fighter plane costs, however I have DEFINITELY noticed that the F35 program has seemed to run over budget, and under perform time and time again. Even from the get go it seemed like the govt was DETERMINED to throw away as much money as possible on this with the decision to develop multiple engines!!

    However I still can’t believe how much money this program has cost, espeically when compared to other recent aircraft, namely the F22 Raptor and V22 Osprey. According to Wiki the F22 program has a total cost of $66.7 billion and a per plane flyaway cost of $150,000,000 / plane (guess the rest is for maintenance/upkeep?). Even the V22 Osprey managed to stay at $35.6 billion total and $70 million / craft.

    F35 costs? Apparently the sky is NOT the limit.

  10. b_thunder says:

    F35: The dumbest or the most corrupt DoD acquisition project ever? A single plane that can serve 3 different purposes and be dominant in every one of them? And be cost effective? I’d like to find out who was the DoD “genius” who was “assured” that it can be done… I wonder how many DoD contracting companies are paying him/her for board memberships, consulting, or “non-executive chairmanships”

    Aside from the satellite links “high tech” electronics, F35 is totally inferior to the Russian and Chinese Gen. 5 fighters, not to mention F22. And what if the Chinese hack into the data stream to/from F35? What if they take down the guidance satellite (they’ve demonstrated that they can do that), what’s then? Then we have a sitting duck with half the thrust and half the maneuverability than the adversaries’ fighter jets have (thanks to the ridiculous attempt to incorporate vertical takeoff in the same airframe)

    F35 isn’t just wildly overpriced program – it will never work!

  11. farmera1 says:

    Hey not to worry, we’re a country of infinite wealth. If we can just squeeze more out of the middle class we can have all of the fancy, wealth sucking planes we want and then we can have more wars (Iraq that invasion of a country for what was the reason again) will only cost $2 trillion plus a few hundred more percent. God I admire this country. Ike was right, and we have all of the military to prove it. We spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. When you have infinite wealth why not invest in a bloated ineffective war machine.

    My four rules of war:

    People die. (Thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis)
    They cost a lot of money. (Trillions in the case of Iraq)
    The outcomes are unpredictable. (what no WMDs, can’t be)
    They are a lot easier to start than they are to stop (credit for this observation goes to Queen of England)

    Just makes me proud to be an American (as an ex-naval officer), I find this plane and the whole current military apparatus disgusting. But it won’t last for long because if you haven’t noticed this country is broke, but
    you gotta dance (or make war and buy planes) while you can.

  12. ilsm says:


    Two myths need addressed: we have spent too much to walk away and, the government keeps changing the specs and calling it overruns!

    So far the program office has spent $85B of the total acquisition budget of nearly $400B (through 2037). F-35 has not proven to be ‘worth the taxpayers’ scarce resources’. It would be better to walk away from the $85B than spend the rest of the $400B to badly acquire a partial capability, and pay huge amounts for scrap and rework. The $400B is less than a third of the total costs of the F35’s sustainment which raises its total burden on the taxpayer to $1400B, which is the reason it won’t be cut, that $1400B franchise is such a huge give away to Lockheed. It should have been killed four years ago, and those accountable for that waste should be dealt with.

    See: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~sgallen/Of%20mice%20and%20economics.pdf

    The government changes “requirements”; causing delays and overruns is a myth that went out with the C-5 debacle of the mid 1960’s. Today the government applies “system engineering standards”, puts a “performance specification” on the contract; it may have been called a “technical requirements document”. It includes performance requirements. Changes to the performance requirements are generated by specification change requests mostly from the developer, when they cannot meet a performance requirement. A contract change is negotiated and the contractors’ suggestions incorporated, these usually reduce performance and raise costs. Most of those changes are the result of “buying before flying” (Chuck Spinney) and making the decision to hurry the thing to the point where people like you can say “we have spent too much money” to walk even though the rest of the costs are not worth the taxpayers’ dough.

    F-22, F18, F-15, A-10 and F-16 will remain viable platforms against future threats. They are better solutions at far less money than the failed F-35.

  13. slowkarma says:

    Very bad planning and bad management get together to produce a plane that, so far, doesn’t work very well (yet.) But this chart, like most charts, is somewhat misleading. You see that number $1.5 trillion and think, WTF? Then you realize that’s the cost over 55 years, which comes to what — $27 billion a year? You’ll find that around the cash registers at Medicare. In the meantime, 150,000 people have good-paying jobs. If this should inspire me to jump off a bridge, it’d be a very low one.

  14. theexpertisin says:

    So jets of the design era circa 1970′s and 80′s, updated, will remain viable platforms against future threats?

    Take a trip down to the USAF Air University post-grad studies school at Maxwell AFB and try to convince the pilots and strategic studies staff from the US and other air force officers from around the globe attending this world class institution that yesterday’s crates will counter threats five to thirty years hence.

    You’d be the one legged man in an ass kicking contest.

  15. ilsm says:


    I have two legs with those guys. Service rivalry for their take of the funding.

    Maxwell types are salesmen for “airpower” the name of their magazine! You need to look at the Russians who spent $71B (US at $710B) on all war outlays in 2012 according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook 2012. See their 1970′s updated jets are still cloned with engines that are suspect.

    Then read the Strategic Bombing study from WW II and how the US did using these guys’ theories in Vietnam.


    F-35 is a fraction of the tactical airpower part of the USAF, which has six or seven other large mission areas. Then there are the other four services…………

    Entitlement spending more important and helps more than F-35 welfare work for 150,000, or the several million feeding at the military industrial complex trough.

    Entitlements waste myths do not justify pentagon waste.

  16. Biffah Bacon says:

    @ teh expertisin: None of these are disinterested parties. The path to advancement is through the revolving door-AF client to AF provider or consultant is the golden path.

    Isn’t the future in drones? Isn’t the Air Force a crummy predictor of its own needs, e.g. the A-10/ground support mission kerfuffle?

    Anyone remember Cheney killing the Crusader? Sunk cost fallacy? Bueller?

    Canada has one armed force and doesn’t seem to have the four chicks in the nest peeping for worms problem.

  17. Jack says:

    Isn’t the F-35 the symbol of what’s wrong with our spending priorities and our national defense policy (policies?). Take just the F-35 money and re-direct it. OK, naive and stupid. Take SOME of the money and do infrastructure stuff and health care stuff and …stuff.

    From a government spending point of view, what’s the dif if we have 5000 more teachers and lose 500 military airplane builders from Boeing, et. al.? It’s a great tradeoff. Some of the teachers may even know science stuff.

  18. elvisnixon says:

    Good luck in that F-35 bathtub when your up against a robotic fighter that is 1/4 the size and can pull 5 times as many G’s. And since it will cost 5 times less you will have 5 times as many to go up against. This is like building battleships in 1939, worked real good for England. There has got to be a cheaper way to make targets for our enemies drones to shoot down.

  19. socaljoe says:

    Let’s see… at $1.5 trillion total cost over 55 years, that would be about $90 per capita per year over the life of the program.

    If it keeps the sky over my head clear of enemy threats for the rest of my life, I am willing to pay my share.

    I wonder how much the average German circa 1944 would have been willing to pay for it.

  20. beaufou says:

    Some people pointed to this article today: http://www.alternet.org/fail-400-billion-military-jet-cant-fly-cloudy-weather
    I guess it’s chewing time for the F35, rd nailed it in one sentence.
    “Unfortunately, it appears this plane has been turned into a stimulus jobs program instead of a military weapon procurement.”

  21. Expat says:

    How about this? The executives and board of Lockheed must go up in an F-35 for five combat missions against an F-16, F-15, F-18, Eurofighter, and latest Mig. If they and the plane survive four out of five dogfights, they get the contract validated and get paid. If not, they get fired, arrested for fraud and treason, waterboarded (just for fun), and exiled to Afghanistan where they will be required to spend twenty years cleaning public toilets*.

    *There are no public toilets in Afghanistan, but I doubt any Lockheed exec knows that.

  22. ilsm says:

    Norm Augustine, Law 16:

    “In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.”[3][4]


    (Retired as CEO LOckheed Martin, he was really good in person).


    BR: Hilarious outcome !

  23. socaljoe says:

    The cost of anything priced in a currency which depreciates at a compounding rate (rate of inflation) will go up exponentially.