The cost of operating the F-35 strike fighter will be “slightly higher” than the cost of operating the F-16, said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. However, that fact won’t change the Air Force’s plans to acquire 1,763 of the fighters, he told reporters on April 23 during a meeting in Washington, D.C. “I don’t think there’s a link between projected operational costs and how many we’re going to buy. That discussion has not occurred in the [Defense] Department,” said Donley. The F-35 program manager, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, “has been working to normalize F-35 projected costs” against the F-16 and F/A-18 across “six different methodologies” used in the Pentagon to count operation and support costs, said Donley. “I think you’ll see some of that reflected in the [selected acquisition report] that comes out in May,” he said. (See also Protect the Bombers, more coverage of Donley’s media event.)
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.