F-35 costs to rise: Pentagon

Two new Pentagon reports suggest that the purchase and operating costs for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be higher than originally projected (Murray Brewster, “F-35 service costs may be more than double Ottawa’s estimate,” Globe and Mail, 25 April 2011).

One report indicates (unsurprisingly) that the unit price of the F-35 will be higher than the $75 million that the government has long been insisting it will cost.

The other report suggests that the operating costs of the jets will also be much higher than earlier estimated:

An estimate by a Pentagon cost-analysis unit projects it will cost $915-billion to keep the U.S. fleet of 2,443 jets flying for 30 years.

The document, leaked to Bloomberg in Washington, forecasts a lifetime maintenance bill of roughly $375-million per aircraft.

Alan Williams, a former senior Canadian defence official, says the costs would be comparable for the 65 planes the Conservative government intends to purchase, starting in 2017.

Using the Pentagon numbers, the 65 planes would cost more than $24-billion to maintain over 30 years, well above Canadian government estimates.

The Conservative government has been insisting that the operating costs of the aircraft will be approximately $7 billion over the next 20 years. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated 30-year operating costs of about $19.5 billion. (The expected lifetime of the aircraft is 30 years.)

The Conservatives, of course, deny that anything is amiss with the grand plan.

Tags: Alan Williams, Defence policy, F-35