The total program cost of the F-35A, B, and C fleets, including research, development, test, and evaluation, production, military construction, and operation of a fleet of 2,443 American jets through the year 2070, with inflation, is estimated to be $1.1238 trillion, the Pentagon announced in its annual Selected Acquisition Report on Thursday. This new number is up from last year’s estimate of $1.0165 trillion, but is only higher because the services added six years of operating service to the fleet. Without the change in service life, the estimate would have been $22 billion lower, the system program office announced. F-35 program manager Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said the jet is doing well, logging availability of about 56 percent, mission capable rates of 66 percent, and mission effectiveness rates of 79-80 percent. “Maturity is getting better,” he said. “We are above the growth curves” predicted, he said, asserting that a mission capable (MC) rate of 60 percent is “pretty good” for a jet still in development. USAF’s goal at maturity for a jet is an MC rate of 80 percent, but USAF has been turning in MC rates in the 50-60 percent range for mature jets due to reduced readiness funding in recent years. Per-jet costs on the Air Force’s F-35A have dropped $1.8 million since last year.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.