Total acquisition costs for Lockheed Martin F35 stealth fighter may rise about 7 percent to $406.5 billion, according to figures in the Selected Acquisition Report. That’s a reversal after several years of estimates that had declined to $379 billion recently from a previous high of $398.5 billion in early 2014.
The $27.5 billion increase is reflected in current “then-year” dollars that cover research, development, procurement and military construction. The separate roughly $1.1 trillion long-term operations and support estimate to keep the aircraft flying until 2070 increased by $35.3 billion.
The estimated increase in the F35s total procurement cost to $346.2 billion from $319.1 billion last year was blamed on adjustments to the jet’s production schedule. The U.S. Air Force reduced its maximum annual rate of aircraft purchases to 60 per year from 80, a move which extended the planned procurements by six additional years from fiscal 2038 to fiscal 2044.
The estimate for the overall average per-jet program acquisition cost in current dollars — the most complete measure of a weapon’s cost — increased to $164.6 million per jet from $154.3 million.
Advanced Super Hornet funded by the US Navy
The US Navy will spend $265 million to upgrade some F18 to a new Advanced super hornet design. The new super hornet design will have “advanced network architecture” and “advanced cockpit displays” on the inside, and conformal fuel tanks — adding 100 to 120 nautical miles to the plane’s range, and providing a stealthier radar profile — on the outside. The new design is not as stealthy as a Lockheed Martin F-35C. The Advanced super hornet will cost about $79 million compared to the F35C quoted price of $122 million.
The Advanced Super Hornet design will be ready 2019. Lockheed is expecting to reach initial operational capability for the F-35C in 2019. The Navy will be able to choose between F-35Cs or cheaper upgraded F/A-18s. The Navy could also choose to upgrade existing F/A-18 fleet, which currently number 545 aircraft at a cost of about $9 million each.