F-35 Costs are Rising, says GAO

 - March 17, 2008, 5:30 AM

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will cost much more than currently predicted, and the expected cost per flight hour already exceeds that of the F-16, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). In its latest annual report to Congress on the JSF, the GAO said cost and schedule pressures are mounting, and the development schedule “is likely to slip from 12 to 27 months.” The GAO did report progress in “several important areas,” but still repeated its previous view that production of the JSF is being ramped up too soon. In a previous story on the F-35 program, it was reported that Lockheed Martin and key manufacturing partners BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman were striving to drive down production cost. But the GAO recently said Lockheed Martin adjusted the manufacturing schedule three times because of design changes, delayed parts deliveries and “manufacturing inefficiencies.” According to the GAO, the first test aircraft required 35 percent more labor hours (65,000 more manhours) to build than planned. This contradicts briefings that the program partners have given to the media, including AIN. Lockheed Martin and the F-35 program office in the Pentagon are preparing a new acquisition cost estimate, “which is expected to be much larger than what is now budgeted,” the GAO said.