Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter is facing pushback in Congress over the warplane’s $1.7 trillion lifecycle costs, The Hartford Courant forecast on 1 June. What’s behind the controversy surrounding the programme and why are some US lawmakers threatening to shut it down?
The Hartford Courant’s gloomy prognosis popped up as the Pentagon is asking Congress to allocate some $715 billion for its fiscal 2022 budget, a 1.6 percent increase from what the US Department of Defence got in fiscal 2021. Of that total, the Pentagon is seeking $12 billion to buy an additional 85 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The F-35 Lightning II programme has been mired in controversy since its inception. Although the project was launched 20 years ago and 500 airplanes have already been delivered, the stealth fighter jet still remains in a low-rate initial production (LRIP) phase which keeps price tags high and orders relatively small, according to Popular Mechanics.
The full rate production decision has been delayed multiple times due to development issues and, most recently, Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) testing, which Lockheed Martin’s has yet to complete. To date, the stealth multirole combat aircraft is years behind schedule and billions over budget.
According to the GOA, the Pentagon plans to acquire nearly 2,500 F-35 fighter jets for about $400 billion and projects spending another $1.27 trillion to operate and sustain them over their utility lifecycle. The F-35 estimated sustainment costs over…