The latest controversy to afflict the tri-service F-35 fighter program is concern that it might cost too much to operate. Operations and support, often called sustainment in military circles, is, in fact, a majority of the program’s life-cycle cost. However, like earlier controversies about the program’s production price and performance, the sustainment issue is more contrived than real. For starters, future cost projections are unprovable guesses based upon bogus estimates of year-by-year inflation into the 2060s. Second, the F-35 is already proving to be more easily repaired and reliable than other fighters in the joint fleet. Third, legacy fighters actually cost more to sustain than data suggest, because the Pentagon does not aggregate all the support costs for, say, an F-15 or F-16 the way it does for an F-35. And then there is the simple fact that F-35 out-performs last-generation fighters by a country mile in combat, so that even if it were more expensive to sustain it would be a bargain in terms of combat results. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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