The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is estimated to be the most expensive weapons system in human history, based on its projected lifetime cost of $1.5 trillion dollars ($406 billion for the aircraft, the rest in lifetime operating costs)—and that’s before we factor in the endless cost overruns.
However, the F-35 program has been notoriously mismanaged and perpetually over budget, and remains far behind schedule. The Pentagon was persuaded to pay for “concurrent” production of F-35s before it had been developed into a fully operational prototype; today Lockheed is shipping non-feature-complete F-35s, which will need to be expensively upgraded later when new components and systems are finally ready. Listing everything that was and continues to be wrong with the F-35 procurement process could be the subject of many articles.
The F-35 is one of the most advanced and technologically diverse military aircraft in the world. It’s equipped with heavy guns, touch screens, and doesn’t show up on the radar. So why does the Lightning receive so much criticism?
Many aviation enthusiasts and even military personnel claim Lockheed’s F-35 costs “more than it’s worth”, “slow and unmaneuverable”, or even “just plain ugly”
But how true is this really? With all the F-35s given features, does the price really outweigh the pay-off? Despite the rumors, the F-35 is not the most expensive U.S military aircraft. Take a look at this:
This jet fighter is a disaster, but Congress keeps buying it
Although significant, the cost of production is lower than that of the U.S F-22 Raptor by a whopping 22 million dollars.
Although production cost is far from the highest, there are far more expenses when it comes to a fighter.
After purchase, you still have cost to worry about such as maintenance and fuel.
However, the F-35 has an advantage here; for it requires very limited maintenance. Less, in fact than any U.S fighter jet.
This has a profound impact on the aircraft’s cost per hour.
Once again, the F-35 cost is significantly smaller than that of the Raptor.
The F-35 lightning flies at a low 1,930 km/h. Not far above the speed of an A-10 Warthog.
This combined with its large turn radius gives the Lightning a disadvantage in dogfights.
However, it is a multi-role aircraft- meaning it can function well in a fighter, but also as a bomber aircraft.
Additionally, vertical takeoff/landing capabilities eliminate the need for a mile of the runway and allow it to be used virtually anywhere.
And these features give Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning a major advantage, above that of most aircraft.
On October 3, 2018, Lockheed Martin reduces F-35 price in a new production contract. F-35A aircraft now below $90 million, a 5.4% reduction from the previous production lot.
So is the F35 worth its weight in gold? Tell us your thoughts!