JSF Price Tag Jumps to $135 Million

That’s according to DOD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office. Total JSF program cost is now estimated at $329 billion for a 2,443 aircraft buy, up from the original 2001 baseline estimate of $197 billion for 2,852 fighters (all figures are in then year dollars). The jump in the per unit price triggers a Nunn-McCurdy “critical breach,” requiring a “recertification” from Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the fighter is vital to national security; which, of course will happen.

So how does JSF now compare on price to the recently cancelled F-22? The F-22 cost about $360 million per copy. The aircraft that looks more appealing as JSF costs climb is the F/A-18E/F at around $90 million a copy. Pressure is building from lawmakers on the Hill for the Navy and Marines to buy more Hornets as the current fleet gets older and the arrival date for the JSF continues to slip.

— Greg

  • MPY

    Oh my god, scrap the entire thing already!

    • WillyPete

      And flush ALL those dollars already spent down the toilet, and THEN pay a Cancellation fee almost the size of the purchase contract, for NOTHING?
      Then, what do we buy?
      Antique designs like the Super Hornet and various Eagle permutations?
      European designs like the Rafale, they Typhoon and the Gripen?
      I don’t care for either of those choices, either…

  • Dmitry

    It is necessary to limit excess profits of military suppliers

    • WillyPete

      It would also help, a LOT to ‘limit’ excess mistakes by our Procurement offices…
      One of the problems with the F-35 is they decided on a ‘concurrent’ schedule, making aircraft purchases WHILE it was still being flight-tested!
      Oh, and it was a ‘cost-plus’ contract that guarantees additional profits in the case of cost overruns, with few or no rewards for coming in on time, and on budget!
      Can you spell “Designed to Fail”?

    • BILL D

      No–but is it necessary for the projected cost per plane to go from 50mil. to 135 mil. and we are still 5YRS. from deployment.What will it be in 2015—200 mil.?

  • czech_6

    wow, i better pick up some shares in Lockheed Martin before it’s too late.

  • Vertigo

    I’m going to stick with my previous statements that, the F35 needs to be put out of its misery. The plant for F22’s has to be reopened, which should only supply the airforce with the latest and greatest. The navy takes the super hornets in full production, the marines and the army get a bunchload of LAAR aircraft (like the super tucano from embraer).

    Now everyone has something to play with, all matching solid mission statements: air force = air superiority and bombing, marines = first strike and COIN capabilities, navy = power projection and the army = command and control of the terrain. There is no need for every single branch in the military to all have the latest and greatest airplane, all have the latest and greatest gadgets. Thats where the branches are supposed to support each other.


  • Robert

    Ridiculous. Thanks goodness that F22 line hasn’t initiated the shutdown yet.

    Let’s buy A/A & A/G Raptor instead then. $135 million per F35; that’s outright FUBR.

    In comparison, Su30MKI is rumored to cost just $45 million each.

  • John

    We need to put an end to the defense contractor corporate welfare. Lockheed is RAPING the taxpayers. They should be barred from ever bidding on defense programs again.

    Perhaps we should just start importing Russian fighters.

    • maximilliangc

      Make sense, buy the airframes, use US made avionics and engines.
      Have them assembled by anyone with a conscience, specifically
      other than Lockmart & Bore-ing.

  • Dan

    Actual costs of the F-22 are now down to about $110M per copy–all R&D costs are sunk and the AF only pays for actual hardware. Better jet than F-35 for less dollars. But the Congress is too busy passing social reform to notice the disparity.

  • jbierling

    135 vs 360. But how much per F-22 if we were building 2400+ of them?

  • Pete

    Lets see what happens when the Russian T-50 or what ever ends up being call cost one third and every third world country have a couple of them. So much for exclusivity.

  • This is quite the disaster. I hope that common sense will prevail and the Pentagon will up the F-22 order, but this puts the Navy and Marines in quite a bind.

  • Dean

    LIke I’ve said before it’s the insistence of a STOVL version of the JSF that has doomed this aircraft from the start. They were naive to think they could build one plane to satisfy everyone. Never been done before and never will. They do it because they think commonality will save money but in the end you pay alot more for something that gives everyone a less capable platform. They will never learn….

    • Why

      Agree completely. I also go further though – STOVL needs to die a much overdue death, at least for Marine Air. It will bankrupt Marine Air.

  • SMSgy Mac

    1. DoD contracts of this sort are ‘cost plus’ — meaning the gov’t recognizes the risk in developing a new capability and technologies and the uncertainties it brings. The DoD contractors’ profits are of a generally lower percentage than in the commercial world. Nearly all of contractor profit is made in award fees which vary by how well they meet objectives laid down by the Customer. in my experience, if the contractor gets less than 95% of the award fee twice in a row, people lose their jobs -margins are that ‘thin’. As a result, DoD prime contractors have tended to attract investors that are willing to accept lower profits and dividends that are also more consistent and steady.
    2. Again, It would be nice if some ‘journalist’ (HINT, HINT)would venture to enquire as to what % of the cost increases are due to programmatic changes: a) stretching the development and b) parsing the LRIP manufacturing programs, c) reducing all that fearsome ‘concurrency’ that everyone was wringing their hands over (last year’s fashionable anti JSF theme).
    3. Let’s buy more older A/C? Yeah, just what we need: more targets.
    People! Close your mouth when you breathe!

  • Blight

    Has anyone calculated out the per unit cost once you subtract out R&D expenditure?

  • Sean

    We shouldn’t even be using STOVL fighters anymore. They are way to prone to IR missiles and hardly used at all in conflicts until the entire enemy SAM systems are down. Station a squadron of Hornets on a CBG. They and their Navy comrades will supply the CAS for the grunts. And tell the Brits to pull the finger out and put 2 cats on their new CVs. This isn’t rocket science people ;)

  • STemplar

    There will be a reduced buy to save costs. That was part of the plan I’d wager. I remember reading a good piece on that very issue. Goes something like this. The F35 was envisioned to replace the F16, F15, F18, A10, and F117. Well we retired the F117s anyway, the A10s are going through a SLEP through almost the total buy of the F35 now, the F15Es are being kept. The numbers of F16s envisioned to be replaced were on a 1 to 10 basis, although people always admitted the F35 was going to be far more capable and there need not be a 1 to 1 replacement of F16s. The F15Es and A10s are being kept, so there doesn’t need to be as many F35s purchased. Factor in the notion that for certain missions, like air sovereignty in North America, a latest version advanced block F16 similar to what is being peddled to India would be more than up to the task.

    There will be a reduced buy I would think.

  • STemplar

    Sorry, previous post meant to say the F16s were to be replaced on a 1 to 1 basis in the USAF version, not 1 to 10.

  • roland

    Gees the price is on the roof already. Maybe we just settle for T-50. Maybe its 10 times cheaper. I heard the russians want a contact with us.

  • Blight

    Even if you reduced the buy to zero you’d still be paying dev costs, which would in turn bring the per unit cost to astronomical levels. Once you’re in the quicksand there’s no easy way out.

    At this point we might as well bump up the order and slap down penalties for additional cost over-runs. Or perhaps Lockheed ought to go on the PR offensive and give us an explanation of how DoD procurement works; and why the cost is spiraling faster than government spending.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    LM to DoD: ” Stick ’em up, we have an F-35 and I know how to use it.”

    DoD to LM: “At least give us the benefit of having a gun and wearing a mask.”

    Byron Skinner

  • Benjamin

    I think the best option would be to scrap the JSF, AF buys improved F-22’s and F-16E/F, Navy buys FA-18E/F blk III and UCAV, USMC buys an improved A-10 if operations are feasible from an LHD and FA-18E/F blk III.

    • BILL D

      I agree-I noted in other comments that the f16 &f15 airframe have enormous potential for upgrades and that can be done at one tenth the cost of the F35.

    • chaos0xomega

      Why would the Marines buy A-10s? They are a great airframe and do the CAS role better than anything else on that list, but they can’t take off from carriers or amphibs… what good are they to the marines?

      We also have to consider what happens with our allies in the event of cutting an F-35. Normally I could care less about that, but having our allies purchase a certain competitors plane instead could screw us in the long run…

    • ohwilleke

      An A-10 needs a minimum of 2500 feet of airstrip to take off, and that’s without being fully loaded (in which case it takes much more). A Nimitz class carrier has 1092 feet or runway available on its deck. Amphibious assault ships take more.

      A carrier based plane with the same mission and similar design choices to an A-10 is possible, but you’d pretty much need to start over from scratch to get something that could handle a short enough runway. I don’t see any way that a modest A-10 modification could do the trick.

      Indeed, something Osprey based might make the most sense for a Marine air to ground platform that would fulfill a similar mission to the A-10.

  • BILL D

    The rest of the world must be laughing their asses off as the only super power gets continually SCREWED by their own defense contractors.

  • BILL D

    At a price of 135mil. ea our suspected future enemies can put up 3 or 4 brand new fighters for 1 of ours.I guess the U S pilots would call that a target rich environment.I call it a recipe for disaster.

  • blackbull

    Dumb and dumber………. The F35 is a non functioning flying brick that does Nothing well. Looks just like another MacNamara boondoggle. Damn politicians dont have the brains to pour pee out of a pointy shoe. My gawd, we are surrounded by marxist/socialists and mentally retarded politicians.

  • Joseph

    135,000,000 $ each for a fighter aircraft that’s neither quite agile (no thrust vectoring…) nor really stealthy is bizarre.

  • G Lof

    Blaming the contractors for a development system created by Congress and Pentagon bureaucraies is a waste of time an energy. Over the last forty years the power that be have destroyed the Military Industrial complex and replaced it was a centralal controllec military supply train copied from the old USSR. And since the people in charge of it have no insentives to control cost, or even produce any weapon what so every, and every reason to protect they asses with mountains of paperwork, natural all we get from them are “megatons” of useless paper.____Frankly if we want to save money we needed to go back to the days when we build a lots of different aircarft that can proform one mission well instead of a single arecraft type that proform no missions at all.__

  • Tom

    I think by the end of the year some of those flags are going to fall off the side of that aircraft, not many foreign countrys like footing more of the bill that got a out of control. To bad… another great NATO plan, shot down before it will really get off.

  • The Norwegian

    The fly-away cost of a F-22 is between 130 and 140 million dollars, the same as F-35, which makes it quite obsurd to buy only 187 of the superb air-to-air F-22 which is also air-to-ground capable, and 2443 of the F-35 which is slower, can’t carry more weapons than the F-22, and mostly air-to-ground configured. The F-35 is not designed with all-aspect stealth as the F-22 is, and everybody knows it. You got to buy more F-22s Gates! Its also quite obsurd to use a lot of money to develop such a fantastic aircraft as the F-22, and then both deny close allies the chance to buy it and also building only 187. The US has commitments which they only increase when export of F-22 is denied.

  • Tony C

    The US Navy was right to bypass congress and develop the F-18F/F in case the F-35 never became reality. The F-18E/F is designated as an 80% solution in the roles it was designed to perform, so why not develop a specialized 20% solution using UCAV’s? The F-35 program has become a fiasco, like the old US Navy A-12 program that they cancelled. The F-35 is now a lead sled with all the hrdware in place, much like teh F-4 Phantom II. The F-4 Phantom had two engines to carry the load. Time to revamp teh F-35 to a lightweight Air Force land based fighter and let the US Navy develop their own replacement for the F-18C/D and F-14 for teh fleet.

  • ohwilleke

    F-35 cost per unit (average cost) in 2001: $70 million
    Inflation since 2001: $14 million
    Increased per plane R&D due to smaller buy of planes: $9.5 million or less.
    Cost overruns from contractor: $41.5 million
    Total average cost: $135 million
    F-35 marginal cost: $108 million.

    By my calculations, the marginal cost of an F-22 is about $220 million (compared to $360 million average unit cost). By comparison, the marginal cost of an already developed F-18E/F is about $90 million, and the marginal cost of an already developed export model of the F-16 is about $27 million.

    Bottom line: the F-35 is very expensive by any measure.

  • ohwilleke

    “Amphibious assault ships take more” should have read “Amphibious assault ships have even shorter runways.”

  • Brian Crowley

    Might be a good time to buy Boeing stock. F-22 is part Boeing as well as F-15
    & F-18.

  • Tony C

    I need to slow down and correct the spelling in these blogs, but it seems to me that the weight issue will be a factor in the F-35 performance. The removal of fire extinguishers in the engine bay to save weight is a red flag. The removal of the gatling gun from the VSTOL F-35B to save weight is another red flag. There has to be some realism added to the equation of performance versus weight and what is needed to perform a real world mission. Stealth technology is expensive and may not give all the benefits advertised with new air defense radars and digital signal processing. The Russian answer is extreme manuverability, which has merit to out manuver a missile in some flight regimes. Missiles are relatively cheap, so the enemy will simply fire more missiles. Stealth has an advantage in the ability to get closer before detection.
    This doesn’t mean it will be impervious to air defenses, so a large number of conventional airframes over a small number of stealth airframes does have merit. The measure-countermeasure developments continue and the answers are getting more and more expensive. The F-18E/F is cheap enough to be used for most missions and if they are lost, not break the treasury.

  • brian

    I guess its time to kill the F35 and buy more F22’s + F18’s. I don’t think I have seen this much consensus on a military issue on this site ever.

  • Blight

    It’s probably too late to spin off the VSTOL variant and attempt to rush out the Navy and AF variant independently. Or at least, isolate whichever version is pushing the costs up.

    Or if it’s cheaper to concede that all three versions won’t have as much commonality as originally designed. I mean, Huey and Cobra have some similar parts, but nobody pretends that they look alike; and certainly nobody tried to build a Cobra gunship out of too many Huey parts to compromise the mission.

  • pfcem


    Your own calculated ‘marginal cost’ (I am not going to comment on its accuracy/inaccuracy) is ‘just 20% more that the F/A-18E/F. A F-35 for 20% higher ‘marginal cost’ than the F/A-18E/F IS A BARGIN!

  • roland

    It could be a good strike fighter candidate if it have low price tag.

  • Robert Fritts

    Maybe the USAF should buy some BARE SU-30 airframes, send them down to Israel to get the all the electronics installed for real war, then we give Lockheed-Martin $30million each for not building aircraft. Everyones happy and the taxpayer saves $60million per aircraft!

  • CTOCS77

    Total JSF program cost is now estimated at $329 billion for a 2,443 aircraft buy, up from the original 2001 baseline estimate of $197 billion for 2,852 fighters (all figures are in then year dollars). The jump in the per unit price triggers a Nunn-McCurdy “critical breach,” requiring a “recertification” from Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the fighter is vital to national security; which, of course will happen.

    Cut the contract and re-bid. No way do we need that many F-35’s, What we need are TOYOTA Pick-ups and RPG’s.

  • CTOCS77

    Anything that has a “J” in it is over budget and behind sked. The Joint Experiement is a failure. You might as well put everyone in the same uniform and stop all this duplication of services. If the Airforce had any vision they would own all the planes that the Navy has today. With today’s technology we do not need all the forward deployed troops sitting in the Fulda Gap waiting for the Russians to come across. All the in-fighting and the services at the expense of the taxpayers. You do not need the F-35 to fight America’s new enemies. Hopefully when Gates justifies the need for the F-35 he is tied to a lie detector.

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  • Zulfiqar Ali Sial

    It is seems corruption in production of these guys. Of which material the aircraft is made of? which cost hundreds of million dollars…

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