Lockheed Martin expects production of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to expand significantly over the next several years. At nearly $1.5 trillion in lifetime costs, the F-35 is the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken by the Pentagon. So far the Pentagon has only purchased about 220 of the 2,400-plus F-35s it planned to buy, less than 10 percent of the total. If the F-35 isn’t going to work as advertised, stopping or scaling back the program now will prevent the Pentagon from throwing good money after bad. Cancelling the program now could save at most half that money. $400 billion is already sunk cost. Some amount would go to other fighter plane orders. Of course, the US military industrial complex rarely shrinks and would probably justify spending even more money.
Others have estimated $50,000 per hour to operate the F35. An F16 costs about $25,000 per hour to operate.
In 2013 the F-22 Raptor cost the Air Force about $68,000 per hour to operate once maintenance and other factors are added in, according to documents provided by the Center for Defense Information. According to the Pentagon, the Navy fired 47 Tomahawk missiles in a raid on Syria in Sept 2014, each of which cost about $1.6 million, for a total of $75.2 million. Assuming a mission duration of about six hours, and a strike package consisting of four F-22s, four F-15Es, four F-16s, two B-1 bombers and four MQ-9 Reapers—which would be consistent with Air Force doctrine—the total cost of Air Force portion of the bill would be about $3.9 million. Combined with the cost of the cruise missiles, the Syria raid cost the American taxpayer roughly $79 million, based on the Center for Defense Information data.
In mid-2014, Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said production of its next-generation fighter is expected to expand from about 36 in 2014 to more than 120 a year by the end of the decade. About 40% of the F35 production will be for the US military and the rest will be for partner nations.
Lockheed and the US government are trying to get the unit cost of the F35 down to $80 million by 2019 instead of the current $115 million. 80% of the per unit cost reduction is discussion to increase annual production from 36 to over 100 F35s. Building a new F16 would cost about $40 million.
The Russian Air Force (VVS) will have received 55 Sukhoi PAK-FA (T-50) fighter aircraft by 2020, according to Vladislav Goncharenko, the deputy director of the United Aircraft Corporation’s (UAC’s) combat aircraft department. The first PAK-FA deliveries are scheduled for 2016.
SOURCES – Flight Global, Janes, CBO, Star Telegram, Daily Beast