I've pointed out the many flaws and (particularly financial) failings of the F-35 Lightning II strike aircraft on several occasions, most recently in April this year. Now Winslow Wheeler, a long-standing critic of the program, has come up with a devastating analysis of its costs. Here's an excerpt.
Set in 2001, the total acquisition cost of the F-35 was to be $233.0 billion. Compare that to the current estimate of $395.7 billion: cost growth has been $162.7 billion, or 70%: a lot more than what GAO stated in its summary.
However, the original $233 billion was supposed to buy 2,866 aircraft, not the 2,457 currently planned: making it $162 billion, or 70%, more for 409, or 14%, fewer aircraft. Adjusting for the shrinkage in the fleet, I calculate the cost growth for a fleet of 2,457 aircraft to be $190.8 billion, or 93%.
The cost of the program has almost doubled over the original baseline ...
... comparing the F-35 to the F-16 is a major error; associating those two aircraft is simply implausible. The two have very, very little in common. While they both are single engine aircraft that were planned to cost less than their contemporary higher cost complements (the F-15 and the F-22 respectively), the basic similarity stops there. The F-16 was conceived as a visual-range air to air fighter in the 1970s; it is a far, far more simple design, and it met its inherent affordability goal. The F-35A is a multi-role, multi-service design with stealth and many other highly complex (so-called “5th Generation”) attributes added in. It is a far, far more intricate aircraft and, as a result, failed to meet any affordability goal.
The F-35A has much more in common with its Lockheed stablemate, the F-22 ... To better predict unknown F-35 costs, we should start with known F-22 operating costs.
. . .
... the F-35 would cost $51,143 per hour to fly. Rather than an F-35A operating cost that is 56% more than the non-analogous F-16; it is more plausible, and analytically conservative, to calculate an operating cost that is 80% less than the highly comparable F-22—even if the improvement has not yet been demonstrated. The question should not be whether the F-35 can achieve 156% of the operating cost of the F-16; it should be whether it can achieve 80% of the operating costs of the F-22.
. . .
The F-35 should now be officially called “unaffordable and simply unacceptable.” All that is lacking is a management that will accept — and act — on that finding.
There's more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.
I fully support and endorse Mr. Winslow's perspective. I fear the F-35 program has degenerated into nothing more or less than a monumental boondoggle, channeling hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money into the constituencies of Representatives and Senators who've allowed its costs to balloon to horrific proportions as a result. It's simply no longer affordable. Even if it were, the ongoing problems with its testing and evaluation suggest it'll no longer be adequate for the combat environment it will face by the time it reaches full operational capability.
I think it's high time the entire F-35 program was scrapped. I realize there's no alternative on the horizon, so it may be militarily undesirable to scrap it; but I submit it'll never be bought in the numbers desired by the USAF, USN and USMC anyway. I doubt very much if it'll be bought in even half those numbers. It's simply too costly.
We can no longer afford this bottomless money pit. It's time to kill it before it drags the rest of the defense budget down with it.