F-35 Quantities Hold Steady

Despite discouraging news about F-35 costs at a recent Defense Acquisition Board program review, there’s been no move to cut the size of the program, said Pentagon acquisition czar Ashton Carter. Speaking last week at the Credit Suisse/Aviation Week aerospace and defense finance conference in New York, Carter said: “We want the number of planes. We just don’t want them for the costs we’re getting.” In 2002 baseline dollars, the final unit cost of the F-35 has risen from an original estimate of $50 million to $92 million. Carter said “there isn’t ever going to be more money” for the F-35, so the Pentagon has no choice but to get cost growth under control and “reverse it.” Asked whether the Marine Corps’ F-35 short takeoff and vertical landing variant would be canceled to save money, Carter said only that all the variants have “issues,” reported Reuters. Carter said he’s “not happy” with the F-35’s status, but is confident that the ultra-complex program is now understood at his level in a way that it hasn’t been before. Getting the cost down will be crucial to keeping foreign partners in the program, he said during his Dec. 1 address. (See also Bloomberg report)