The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been in development for nearly 18 years and is now eight years behind schedule, said an American expert on Friday, calling it the “biggest acquisition disaster” in Pentagon’s history.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government, blasted the high acquisition and maintenance cost of the F-35 JSF for American taxpayers.
”The F-35 is the poster child for ineptitude and inefficiency in U.S. defense procurement,” he said.
“The total acquisition costs of the fifth-generation aircraft now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion,” said Schatz in an opinion piece at Fox Business.
“The lifetime operation and maintenance costs of the most expensive weapon system in history will total approximately $1.2 trillion,” he added, criticizing the massive delays in the production cycle.
Schatz drew attention to the fact that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is now requesting funds for “cheaper to operate” F-15EX.
“In a March Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford said the DOD requested funding for the F-15EX, which is an updated version of the F-15C/D being sold to countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He said, it is “slightly less expensive for procurement than the F-35, but it’s more than 50 percent cheaper to operate over time and it has twice as many hours in terms of how long it lasts,” Schatz said.
He also recalled the words of Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson who said the high operating costs of the F-35 is a factor in purchasing the F-15EX.
Schatz went on to list the problems with F-35 JSF, mentioning “continued delays and unreliability”.
“The F-35 faces a litany of ongoing problems, including 13 category-one issues, defined as major flaws that hamper mission effectiveness and impact safety,” he said.
“These defects include extreme sinus and ear pain experienced by pilots due to rapid changes in cabin pressure, damage to the stealth coating of the plane at high speeds, and lighting issues with the pilot’s helmet that complicate carrier landings,” he added.
Strikingly, Schatz said that “as of February 2018, only 51 percent of the JSFs purchased by DOD were operational”.
He warned American defense officials to fix the problems before DOD makes a decision in October to begin full-scale production.
“Failing to address defects prior to entering this stage will dramatically raise the overall cost of the program, as any aircraft acquired in the interim will need to be retrofitted down the line,” Schatz warned.