The U.S. Air Force plans to order 1,763 F-35 Lightning II jets from Lockheed Martin, but rapidly increasing operating costs could reduce that number significantly.
According to an internal analysis obtained by Bloomberg, the Pentagon says it has stabilized the initial purchase price for the F-35, now estimated to total $406 billion for a combined 2,456 jets for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. But the cost of operating the jets is still climbing, and the current estimate for flying and maintaining the F-35 platform now stands at $1.1 trillion through 2070.
According to the internal analysis, operations and support costs are rising as flight hours for the F-35 increase, but the Air Force has “very limited visibility into how” those funds are being spent by Lockheed. Earlier cost projections indicate that the Air Force needs to reduce its F-35-related costs by 38 percent, and failure to do so could force the service to slash its order by 590 jets.