Almost a “dog bites man” <yawn> story at this point. From Business Week:
Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s first 63 F-35 fighter jets are exceeding their combined target cost by $1 billion, showing the Pentagon’s costliest program lacks a reliable design and efficient manufacturing, according to U.S. congressional auditors.
The Pentagon is absorbing $672 million and Lockheed Martin the remaining $328 million in added costs for the aircraft in the first four production contracts, the Government Accountability Office said in prepared testimony today for a House Armed Services Committee hearing on tactical aviation. The committee is conducting the first oversight hearing on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the fiscal 2013 budget.
“The long-stated intent that the Joint Strike Fighter would deliver an affordable, highly common fifth-generation aircraft that could be acquired in large numbers could be in question,” Michael Sullivan, the GAO’s director of acquisition management, said in the statement.
The testimony previews the GAO’s annual report on the Defense Department’s most costly weapons program, which is to be published next month. The GAO’s findings and the Pentagon’s annual test report, issued in January, are the two primary sources that lawmakers and the public have for assessing the military’s and Lockheed Martin claims for the F-35.
The reports are also closely watched by the program’s eight international partners, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia and Norway.
The GAO’s quote there is spot on. If this fifth-generation fighter is too expensive, nobody will care if it meets mission. Partner nations will drop out by the end of the year at this rate.
What’s worse is we’ve seen this movie before. And we know all about the crying at the end.