By Rebecca Shabad
The Pentagon should improve its cost estimates for sustaining a Joint Strike Fighter jet that’s expected to replace a number of military aircraft in the next four years, a government report said Tuesday.
The Defense Department has begun developing plans for maintaining the F-35 fleet over the next five decades, which two internal agency offices estimate will cost around $1 trillion.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, however, found the Pentagon might not have taken into account certain weaknesses in the program.
The military, for instance, might face significantly higher fuel costs using the F-35s, depending on the intensity of operations.
In 2019, the F-35 fighter jets are expected to replace a variety of aircraft currently used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-35 fleet is expected to be the Defense Department’s most expensive weapon system.
In addition to the projected sustainment costs, the Pentagon estimates it will cost $400 billion to design and build the jets.
The GAO acknowledged the Pentagon has begun developing cost-saving plans for the F-35s, but the office’s report said officials didn’t use the military’s budget to set price targets.
The Pentagon should take steps to improve the reliability of sustainment cost estimates, the GAO said, and should establish affordability constraints.
The F-35 has hit a number of obstacles in recent years. The program, which entered its development stage in 2001, is seven years behind schedule.