Canada is the latest country to raise doubts about whether it will buy the beleaguered F-35. The fast and stealthy next-generation fighter jet is supposed to replace several of the dominant aircraft in the stables of U.S.-allied nations, including the F/A-18, the F-16, and the A-10. But some are balking at its astronomical price and questionable production and operational reliability, as the Washington Post reports:
Many thought that by now Canada would have decided whether to buy the planes — a move that would help drive down costs in the nearly $400 billion program — or instead force the plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, to compete for its business. But it’s now unclear when that will happen.[…]Facing budget constraints, Italy and the Netherlands have already curtailed the number of F-35s they said they plan to buy. Denmark is holding a competition that would pit the F-35 against other fighters. Meanwhile, the production line at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant has been limited to a little over 30 the past two years, as tightened U.S. budgets and technical problems have forced the Pentagon to significantly slow its procurement as well.
Just how expensive is the F-35? Estimates of the unit cost, the actual price of each jet, vary widely. The Pentagon now says it will charge allies more than $80 million, but independent reports place certain versions of the jet at more than three times that. For America, the F-35 program is the largest single item on the Pentagon’s budget, eating up a full 38 percent of the entire procurement budget. And the program’s operating cost alone—the price of fielding and maintaining the jets—will be more than $1 trillion. The initial cost of the F-35 program, which has already been revised up many times, was justified by the argument that the volume of foreign orders would scale up production and drive unit costs down.If U.S. allies don’t buy—and it seems increasingly likely that they won’t—the F-35 will become an even greater boondoggle.