There has been controversy of late about how much it costs to operate the F-35 fighter. You would never guess listening to coverage of this controversy that the most common variant of the fighter, the Air Force’s F-35A, is already outperforming legacy fighters in key measures of affordability. For instance, time elapsed between failures on key components is much better than the Air Force requirement, and the “break rate” for F-35s returning from missions is the lowest of any fighter in the fleet. The cost per flight hour is declining steadily and the number of maintenance hours required per flight hour is a fraction of what is needed on F-15 and F-16. When the F-35A does need to be fixed, it is usually good to go after one maintenance shift–once again, a better performance than legacy fighters. So if you thought F-35A is unaffordable to operate, think again–it’s a bargain in terms of price and performance compared with other Air Force fighters. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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