Joint Strike Fighter cost estimate continues to climb

By Lee Hudson / July 17, 2017

The cost estimates for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's airframe and engine continue to climb, according to the most recent selected acquisition report obtained by Inside Defense.

The projections for both the airframe and engine costs came in under the current acquisition baseline development objectives, but are higher than previous cost estimates. The JSF program was rebaselined in March 2012.

According to the latest SAR, which has not been previously reported, the cost of the F-35 airframe is now pegged at $342.1 billion in then-year dollars, while the cost of the aircraft's F135 engine is estimated at $644 million, also in then-year dollars. The acquisition baseline development objective estimates are $330.8 billion for the aircraft and $648.6 million for the propulsion system.

The 2016 SAR lists the total acquisition cost for the F-35 program as $406.5 billion, a figure previously reported by Bloomberg.

"The F-35 program remains within all cost, schedule and performance thresholds and continues to make steady progress," F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova said in a statement.

The SAR only reports U.S. costs and does not take into account efficiencies gained through international partner and foreign military sales contributions and quantities, he continued.

The SAR does not reflect an updated operations and sustainment cost estimate. The program office's 2016 life cycle O&S cost estimate increased 4 percent from the 2015 estimate, according to DellaVedova.

"This increase was driven by an [Office of the Secretary of Defense] update to the FY16 fuel escalation index that increased the [base year FY-12] fuel cost per gallon, as well as a change to the DOD beddown plans that added more than 135,000 flight hours and 63,000 operational aircraft years to the program," he wrote. "Without these two updates, F-35 estimated O&S costs would have decreased by approximately $6.2B [in base year FY-12 dollars] from last year's JPO estimate."