The F-35 fighter program is making steady progress towards fielding the best tactical aircraft ever built. You’d never know that, though, to listen to the way Pentagon managers describe it. Having aborted the quick production ramp-up required to minimize costs, they insist on citing cost projections that distort reality and can’t be understood by normal people. For example, the trillion-dollar figure cited for operations and maintenance over a fifty-year period is driven mainly by make-believe inflation numbers that can’t be verified. Three-quarters of the increase in sustainment costs since the program began are traceable to changes in the scope and methods of government estimators rather than actual cost escalation. And the cost of keeping existing fighters flight-worthy over the next 50 years is 3-4 times what it would cost to replace them with the F-35. Is it any wonder some members of Congress think the most cost-effective solution to air-power modernization is unaffordable? I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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