The Pentagon’s recent estimate that it will cost a trillion dollars to operate and sustain the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter through 2065 is very misleading. First, the estimate exaggerates an already big bill by using imaginary inflation rates that are unknowable. Second, the estimate fails to note that the cost of sustaining the existing fighter fleet over the same period would be nearly four times higher. Third, the estimate makes it appear F-35 support costs have tripled when in fact three-quarters of the increases are due to changes in the scope of work covered and the methods used to calculate costs. Fourth, the estimate relies of data from legacy fighter programs that lacked many of the efficiency features and enablers included in F-35. I have written a commentary for Forbes explaining why the estimate should not be taken seriously that can be found here.
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