This is an expensive process. The Government Accountability Office identified $1.8 billion worth of retrofitting costs to the program in 2016, with $1.4 billion going to already known problems and another $386 million worth of anticipated fixes that had yet to be identified.
These figures are almost certainly much lower than the true cost to retrofit the aircraft already purchased because, as the testing process continues, it’s natural that more and more problems will be revealed. The F-35 program is expected to cost $406.5 billion in development and procurement costs alone.
The true cost to upgrade the earlier generation aircraft must be much higher than what is being publicly reported if the Pentagon has deemed it cheaper to purchase more aircraft.
In total, Congress has authorized—and the Pentagon has spent—nearly $40 billion purchasing approximately 189 F-35s that, in their current configuration, will never be able to perform the way they were expected to when taxpayer dollars were used to buy them. This is hardly the right way to do business.
Any future program must abide by the true spirit of the “fly before you buy” business model—unless of course neither Congress nor the Pentagon nor the manufacturers really care about producing an effective and affordable system.
This article originally appeared at the Project on Government Oversight.
Image: Wikimedia Commons