Shocking Revelation: F-35 Fighter’s $1.7 Trillion Burden Exposed with Staggering High Maintenance Costs

The F-35 Lightning Strike II, an advanced American multirole stealth fighter, is touted as the world’s most sophisticated modern aircraft. Initially conceived by the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program in the United States, the aim was to create an interoperable fighter platform incorporating cutting-edge stealth technology for use by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.

Developed and produced by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Lightning Strike II comes in three variants: the F-35A for the Air Force, F-35B for the Marine Corps, and F-35C for the Navy. Each variant possesses advanced stealth capabilities, a single engine, a single-seat configuration, and the ability to achieve supersonic speeds. Their distinctive roles include conventional takeoff from air force runways (F-35A), vertical landing on Marine Corps amphibious attack ships (F-35B), and aircraft carrier landings for the Navy (F-35C).

Despite its cutting-edge features, the F-35 Lightning Strike II has encountered challenges, making it the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report estimates a staggering $1.7 trillion for the purchase, operation, and sustainment over its 66-year life cycle. Factors contributing to this cost overrun include high maintenance expenses, developmental delays, and complications with the Block 4 development program, which aims to modernize the aircraft.

The Block 4 program, initially projected to cost $10.6 billion and be completed by 2026, has experienced cost overruns, with estimates reaching $16.5 billion and a revised completion date in 2029. The Department of Defense’s lack of clarity regarding cost increases further adds to the challenges, as the program aims to upgrade the F-35’s engine and address issues in the power and thermal management system, incurring an additional $38 billion in maintenance costs.

With over 2,700 F-35s ordered and around 900 already procured, each aircraft costing approximately $100 million, the per-hour flight cost stands at $40,000. This is significantly higher than the $26,000 per-hour cost for an F-16 sortie. The mission capable rate, a key performance indicator, has fallen to 55%, well below program goals, according to the GAO’s September 2023 report. Additionally, a backlog in spare parts and critical deficiencies, including safety and security concerns, have been identified, raising questions about the program’s sustainability.

The Israeli Air Force’s decision to ground its F-35 fleet in 2022 due to issues with the pilot ejection system further underscores the challenges faced by the F-35 Lightning Strike II. Despite its initial objective of providing a common platform, the program has encountered numerous issues and modifications, deviating from its primary goal. The incident involving the disappearance of an F-35B in September due to malfunction highlights the ongoing challenges and complexities in the F-35 program.