Just for fun, I’ve summarized a few data points from GAO’s report (1); numbers that taken together give a sort of snapshot of the behemoth program. I’ll refrain from any analysis and let the numbers speak for themselves.
• 2,457: The total number of F-35s the
• $395.7 billion: The latest estimate for the total cost to develop and buy the F-35. That’s up from an estimate of $278.5 billion in the 2007 baseline and up from the original program estimate of $233 billion in 2001.
• $1 billion: The cost overruns on the first four annual procurement contracts; taxpayers’ share of that is about $672 million. That adds about $11 million to the price of each of the 63 total aircraft under contract.
• $373 million: Additional costs of “concurrency” – modifications to aircraft DoD has already bought that were made necessary by discoveries in testing that came after they were built.
• 365: The number of F-35 the Pentagon plans to buy (for about $69 billion) before the program’s developmental flight tests are finished.
• 179: The number of aircraft the Pentagon will delay through fiscal 2017 to reduce “concurrency” risks. Here’s what GAO said about that:
“This marked the third time in as many years that near-term procurement quantities had been reduced. Combined with other changes since the 2007 revised baseline, total JSF procurement quantity has been reduced by 410 aircraft through fiscal year 2017. Since the department still plans to eventually acquire the full complement of U.S. aircraft—2,443 production jets—the procurement costs, fielding schedules, and support requirements for the deferred aircraft will be incurred in future years beyond 2017. The new plan also stretches the period of planned procurement another two years to 2037.”
“With the latest reduction, the program now plans to procure a total of 365 aircraft through 2017, about one-fourth of the 1,591 aircraft expected in the 2002 plan.”
• $35,200: The Air Force’s target cost per flight hour for its F-35A. That’s compared to about $22,500 per flight hour for an F-16 today – though program and Pentagon officials say it’s apples-and-oranges trying to compare F-35 costs to “legacy” aircraft.
• 6: Number of primary test objectives the F-35 completed in 2011, out of 11.
• 972: Number of test flights F-35s completed in 2011 – more than double that of the year before. The program completed has more than 21 percent of its total 60,000 planned test points.
• 24 million: Lines of code “necessary for the JSF’s capability,” GAO said; that includes 9.5 million aboard the aircraft itself. The F-35 needs three times as many lines of software code as the F-22 and six times as many as the F/A-18E and F Super Hornet.
• $80 million: The cost to bring the F-35’s initial pilot helmet into spec while at the same time developing “a second, less capable helmet” that crews can use as a stopgap. Whichever helmet ends up in use, it won’t be “integrated into the baseline aircraft” until 2014 or later, “increasing the risks of a major system redesign.”
(1) GAO: Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, Statement of Michael J. Sullivan, Director Acquisition and Sourcing Management, GAO-12-525T, March 20, 2012