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09:56 AM, April 23, 2019
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F-35 fighter

The world’s most expensive weapons program, development of the Lockheed Martin fifth-generation F-35 fighter is estimated to cost $22 billion more, according to a report published by Bloomberg.

The estimated total price for research and procurement has increased by $22 billion in current dollars adjusted for inflation, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual cost assessment of major projects.

The estimated cost of operation and maintenance of the fleet for over six decades increased by almost $73 billion, pushing the total to $1.196 trillion.

The 5.5 percent increase to $428.4 billion from $406.2 billion in acquisition costs is due to the current cost estimates for a major set of upgrades planned in coming “Block 4” modifications. The price rise is not because of poor performance, delays or excessive costs for labor or materials, according to the Defense Department’s latest Selected Acquisition Report sent to Congress last week and obtained by Bloomberg News.

The Pentagon’s fiscal 2021 proposed budget calls for 17 fewer F-35s than planned — 81, according to the Selected Acquisition Report.

“Ensuring our Block 4 efforts are captured in our acquisition baseline and now in our SAR help us to provide full transparency and status on our F-35 modernization progress,” the Pentagon’s F-35 program office said in an emailed statement.

“The F-35 program remains within all cost, schedule and performance thresholds and continues to make steady progress,” the program office said in its statement. The office “is committed to the delivery of cost-effective warfighting capability across all areas of the program.”

Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan have been pushing the program office and Lockheed to reduce projected operations and support costs.

The projected increase is likely to be scrutinized by them.

Carolyn Nelson, a spokeswoman for Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, said in an email that the contractor “is taking aggressive action to build supply chain capacity, reduce supply chain costs and improve parts availability to help drive sustainment costs down while enhancing readiness.”

The U.S. still plans to buy 2,456 total of the jets in its variations: 1,763 for the Air Force, 420 for the Marines and 273 for the Navy. The totals don’t include more than 700 potential foreign military sales.

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