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DoD adds $17B to total cost estimate for F-35

Mar. 29, 2012 - 08:54PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 29, 2012 - 08:54PM  |  
F-35 test aircraft are seen at Naval Air Station Patuxent Aircraft, Md.
F-35 test aircraft are seen at Naval Air Station Patuxent Aircraft, Md. (Lockheed Martin)
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The Defense Department projects a nearly $17 billion increase in the total cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program from prior estimates, according to a new Pentagon report.

DoD now says the entire program will cost $396 billion, according to Pentagon's selected acquisition report, which was sent to Congress on Thursday. Sister publication Defense News obtained a copy of the document.

The price tag, which includes procurement and development costs, uses "then-year" dollar estimates, which accounts for inflation over the life of the program.

The Pentagon still plans to buy 2,443 of the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. Production of U.S. jets is expected to go until the late 2030s.

Slowing down procurement of the F-35 in the near term, as laid out in DoD's 2013 budget request, will add nearly $6.2 billion in procurement and development costs. DoD removed 179 F-35s from planned purchases between 2013 and 2017.

Pentagon officials have said that slowdown is necessary to finish development, thus avoiding even greater costs of having to modify production jets to meet the final configuration.

The overall sustainment cost for the program is estimated at $1.1 trillion, according to the document. The Pentagon is conducting a two-year "should cost" assessment of operation and sustainment costs that will continue in 2012.

DoD now plans to fully ramp up production of Marine Corps and Navy versions at a pace of 50 jets per year in 2018, according to the document. Last year's report projected 50-aircraft-per-year buys beginning in 2017.

Air Force production is expected to hit 60 jets in 2018 and peak at 80 jets in 2021. Last year's report projected 80-aircraft-per-year buys beginning in 2017.

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