Why This Controversial Jet May Cost $1.7 Trillion | True Cost

the us military expects to spend 1.7 trillion dollars on this revolutionary stealth warplane the f-35 lightning ii 2021 marks 15 years since the first flight of this controversial plane but high costs may sink the plan to build nearly 2 000 more f-35s it still has some problems that need to be solved and fundamentally the cost of operating the airplane and flying the airplane today is too high every hour the f-35 is in the air runs around 35 000 compared to about 22 000 for an older f-16 so are the advancements of the plane worth the cost we went to hill air force base in Utah to find out how this plane ended up as the biggest weapons program in American history this is captain spencer whitey callsign ghost he flies one of 78 f-35s stationed here the f-35 in general is just a game changer between the stealth and the fusion and just the sensors the whole suite it just makes it so much easier to fly this airplane tactically than any other jet there are nearly 500 f-35s in service in the us military and in the last few years the f-35 has carried out airstrikes against isis in Iraq and Syria probably the best compliment you can pay to this airplane is if I wanted to go to war this is the airplane I want to be in so by many measures, the plane is a success you know the f-35 a lot of times has gotten a sort of a bad rap in the media there was bad press from the beginning but even in 2021 criticism followed the revelation that operating this fleet of planes could cost taxpayers 1.7 trillion dollars that's equivalent to the total amount of student debt in America just buying the planes costs 400 billion dollars but what are called sustainment costs really add up that includes developing testing flying and maintaining the American fleet of nearly 2 500 f-35s during a 66-year life cycle that ends in 2070. Lockheed Martin sent insider a statement that says there is clearly work to be done to lower sustainment costs and we are working tirelessly with our customers to accomplish this to truly understand the complex price tag we need to look at how it was born in 2001 the department of defense awarded Lockheed Martin the contract to design and build a new generation of fighter jet but part of the problem was the same thing that made it seem great in the first place the f-35 was supposed to fit the needs of the air force navy and marines all in one so the military actually had to build three different models the f-35a b and c they're really close cousins and they look a lot alike but the air force had its own requirements the navy needed a tailhook the marine core variant needed the jump jet so it was a mistake to sell the f-35 as one single aircraft it's really three aircraft rolled into one the marine corps wanted to replace harrier jets so it needed short takeoff abilities and vertical landings for amphibious carriers that's what became the f-35b model at a cost of 101 million dollars per plane the navy wanted a stealth jet that could take off and land on supercarriers to replace the fa-18 enter the 94 million dollar f-35, c model the air force was looking to replace the a-10 and the f-16 I have flown against f-16s in this airplane you can end up just showing up behind them and they never knew that you were on your way you were invisible you saw them from a long ways out they never saw you ghost flies the most conventional fighter bomber version the f-35a it's also the least expensive of the three at 78 million dollars the original plan was for all of the f-35s a b and c to be nearly identical but packing everything into just one kind of plane created all sorts of problems the first b model was meant to hover but it was significantly overweight because of all the functionality that designers packed into it so basically the Lockheed martin had to redesign the f-35b and because all three airplanes were being developed together it also resulted in some redesign of the a model and the c model this was a major setback to the program and ended up costing the program a lot of time and an awful lot of money to redesign the navy's c model needed tougher landing gear and bigger wings so it could land on a traditional aircraft carrier retired lieutenant general Chris Bogdan took over the f-35 joint program office in 2012. the program had run into some significant cost and schedule overruns it was billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule the original design shared about 75 in common between versions that was meant to cut costs but general Bogdan says in the end the planes only share about a third of their design it was part of the mess Bogdan inherited because back in 2006 the dod decided to enter production before testing showed acceptable performance we were going to take all these new technologies that were not very mature and we were going to integrate them in one big bang on the airplane and basically, hope that it worked the problem there is if any one of those technologies is not mature or doesn't work it holds up the entire program by 2021 Lockheed martin had delivered nearly 500 f-35s to the us military with plans for nearly 2 000 more Lockheed had delivered more than 200 f-35s to other governments around the world and orders for 600 more are in the works the f-35 is being mass-produced and Lockheed is expected to deliver more than 150 planes in 2022 but the pentagon has delayed a crucial milestone called full-rate production that would officially mark the end of testing the f-35 a decade and a half after its first flight the f-35 still has more than 600 known problems mainly related to computer software and hardware so maintaining an f-35 turns out to be much more expensive than anyone expected the lifetime cost estimate for maintenance of the f-35 fleet increased between 2018 and 2021 to a total of more than 400 billion dollars just like you get a new iPhone every couple years we're going to get new computers in the jet with more capability and then new sensors and improved avionics in the aircraft the f-35 is a flying computer with eight million lines of code for the airplane itself and another 16 million lines of diagnostic tools that help figure out what's going wrong at any given time absolutely the biggest advantage for the f-35 is the fact that it's self-diagnosing right and if it doesn't tell us exactly what's wrong it gives us a general direction to go in which saves a lot of time on the back end when it comes to maintenance it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it and there are benefits inside the cockpit since pilots get more information than in any other fighter jet the helmet a 400 000 custom-fit model combines the heads-up display of older planes with night vision as well as a feed from infrared cameras mounted on the body of the plane my awareness is projected to me in the visor of this helmet and it's so expensive because it's binocular it projects into both of my eyes so those have to be perfectly aligned so I'm not seeing double the stealth design absorbs radar waves and hides the massive heat signature put out by its supersonic engine I see everything that's happening out there and they don't see me because I'm stealth which then just allows me this position to just sit back and quarterback in kind of a calm environment as opposed to kind of the chaos that you're having to go through if you're in other jets where older fighters are seen on radar, the f-35s are barely a blip, of course, the same can't be said for the cost and without better affordability the military will likely cut back on purchases the original plan and believe it or not the current plan is for the air force to buy 1763 f-35as no one really believes that it's just sort of out there since the military buys planes in batches future production could stop at almost any time but most likely that's not the case most likely they'll get maybe 11 or 1200 in which case you have to keep a legacy force fourth-generation fighters that work with you and depend upon you the f-35 as effectively the the the well the force that kicks down the door so two decades into the program with less than a third of the anticipated planes built that 1.7 trillion-dollar number is just an educated guess.

Post a Comment