F-35 fighter jet: Most expensive weapons program ever


COSTLY BEHEMOUTH: Costs for the F-35 fighter jet are soaring. A Marine Corps’ version is priced at $251 million.

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new analysis of the F-35 fighter jet shows it’s not only the most expensive warplane ever. Once the engines are added, it’s also the most expensive weapons program in history.

Defense analyst Winslow Wheeler broke down the costs of the jet’s various versions and found they range from $148 million (Air Force F-35A) to $337 million (Navy F-35C). The Marine Corps’ F-35B lands in between at $251 million.

“It gets worse,” said Wheeler. “These are just the production costs. Additional expenses for research, development, test and evaluation are not included.”

Wheeler’s numbers are based on a Senate Appropriations Committee report on the Pentagon’s 2015 appropriations bill.

The price tags far exceed previous projections.

In a June 9 briefing, F-35 developer Lockheed still advertised the cost of the planes without engines.

The respected industry publication, Aviation Week, reported July 22 that taxpayers put up $98 million for each F-35A in 2013.

“Even those who reject that someone might be cooking the books to make F-35A costs look as good as possible to Congress — and all-important foreign buyers — there should be a consensus that the program needs a comprehensive, fully independent audit,” Winslow said.

“Surely, an audit will help Congress and Pentagon leadership better understand why F-35B and F-35C prices are going up when they were supposed to be going down.”

Though the F-35 project has encountered some turbulence on Capitol Hill, opposition has been muted.

“It’s a done deal so long as no one in Congress does anything,” Winslow told Watchdog.org.

For more details, read the report by Winslow, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the
Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight.

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward