F-35 fighter jets will sell for as little as $80 million in five years, according to the Pentagon official running the program.
“The cost of an F-35A in 2019 will be somewhere between $80 and $85 million, with an engine, with profit, with inflation,” U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Pentagon’s manager of the program, told reporters in Canberra today. “The important thing about that is when you can start offering a fifth-generation airplane that rivals fourth-generation prices, you’ve got a pretty good airplane.”
Australia, Japan and Israel are among nations that have placed orders for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system, which has been beset by rising costs and technical troubles, including jittery images in the pilot’s helmet. The Pentagon has repeatedly questioned the plane’s progress, finding in January that the fighter wasn’t sufficiently reliable in training flights last year and its complex software system was causing difficulties.
The Pentagon has projected a price tag of $391.2 billion to build a fleet of 2,443 F-35s, a 68 percent increase from the projection in 2001, measured in current dollars. The number of aircraft the Pentagon plans to buy is 409 fewer than called for originally.
The F-35 development program, which has an end-October 2017 completion date, is running four to six months late, mainly due to software complexities, Bogdan said. Other problems remain in the reliability and maintainability of the aircraft, he said.
“From a schedule standpoint, up until 2016 I’m pretty confident,” Bogdan said. Beyond that, “things get a little fuzzier,” he said.