The price of the F-35 strike fighter compares well with that of a modern F-16 or F/A-18 loaded for bear, Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for F-35 business development, tells the Daily Report. “A fully operational,” latest model F-16E or F/A-18E is “the same cost” as an F-35 at maturity, coming in at roughly $65 million in 2010 dollars, claimed O’Bryan Tuesday. He said one of the difficulties of comparing costs between the fifth generation F-35 and the fourth generation F-16s and F/A-18s is that many systems on the latter—such as targeting pods, electronic warfare pods, conformal fuel tanks and AESA radar—are sold separately. On the F-35, they are internal, standard equipment, he said. But after spending a similar amount of money on an F-16 or F/A-18, “it’s still a fourth generation aircraft”, said O’Bryan, meaning still less capable than the F-35. He also said Lockheed’s F-35 cost numbers track very closely with those of the US government. “It’s less than a five-percent difference” between the Pentagon’s cost numbers and the company’s own figures, he asserted.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.