The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program has been delayed again and will cost at least $500 million more, according to correspondence between the Pentagon and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) revealed Tuesday afternoon that the Defense Department had confirmed the seven-month delay in the F-35’s system development and demonstration phase, or SDD. McCain has long been a harsh critic of the F-35 program for its delays and accompanying cost overruns, and President-elect Donald Trump has more recently took aim at Lockheed Martin’s development of the fifth-generation stealth fighter jets for its “out of control” costs.
“I have been recently informed the F-35’s system development and demonstration phase has been delayed another seven months, another costly stumble that will cost the American taxpayer at least $500 million,” McCain said in a statement. “This is yet another troubling sign for a program that has already nearly doubled in cost, taken nearly two decades to field, and has long been the poster child for acquisition malpractice.”
The F-35 program’s budget has nearly doubled to $400 billion since Lockheed Martin first unveiled it 15 years ago, making it the Pentagon’s most costly acquisitions program.
In a letter to McCain sent Dec. 19, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, revealed that the development phase to deliver the fighter jet’s Block 3F software would be delayed by seven months. Completing the phase will cost at least $500 million more than previously budgeted, Kendall said, though he added that the increased costs “can be covered from funds within the program.” The additional money will be needed in the next fiscal year.
“I have concluded that we should plan for a seven month extension from the previous SDD baseline estimate for the delivery of the Block 3F capability with a completion goal of May 2018, and provide set-aside funds to account for increased SDD cost,” Kendall wrote. “The F-35 SDD program cost and schedule were re-baselined in 2011 following a thorough technical baseline review of the remaining work to complete the development effort.”
“Completing SDD will require at least $500 million more than previously budgeted. These funds will be required beginning in FY 2018. A more accurate projection will become available over the next few months as additional testing occurs,” Kendall wrote. “There are program funds to cover over 80 percent of the shortfall we currently anticipate and the balance can be made up by diverting a fraction of the planned [Follow-On Modernization] funding to completing SDD. The final FY 2018 budget request will identify any changes to the funding required to complete SDD.”
Full article: F-35 Program Delayed Again, Costing At Least $500 Million (Washington Free Beacon)