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> The media shits on the program because these jets have been insanely expensive to develop & build. I’ve read estimates of upto $1 trillion which I think is an inflated figure.
The $1 trillion is a real number. It’s the cost of the *whole* program which includes:
* Cost of the R&D to design the plane.
* Cost to buy almost 2500 of these things.
* Cost to maintain all 2500 for the next 50 years.
* Cost to train all of the pilots that will fly the plane for the next 50 years.
* Cost to train all of the ground crews to work on the plane for the next 50 years.
The media loves to flash that number around because $1T is a huge number. But the reason the number is so large is not because it’s the F-35, it’s because it’s 2500 planes x 50 years. The cost breakdown looks like this:
R&D: ~$60B = $24M per plane.
Procurement: ~$260B = $104M per plane.
**Operations: ~$600B** = $240M per plane.
The problem is that the biggest part of the cost is true for any modern fighter. Almost 2/3rds of that $1T cost is just because fighter jets are expensive and switching to something else isn’t going to have much of an effect. It’s like calculating the price of a car and including the price of all the repairs, insurance, and fuel usage for the next 20 years in the sticker price. No shit that is going to be a big number.
>Some critics argue that these new jets are also quite unnecessary since NATO & mostly the US already have a supreme command of the skies in atleast the Western Hemisphere with the technology they already possess.
Yes, and those critics are idiots. The reality is that planes have a limited lifespan and many of the current ones are going to have to be retired due to age.
The most obvious one being the F-117, the original stealth fighter that made stealth famous in the 1991 Gulf War. It was retired in 2008. The USAF has already been without a stealthy strike fighter for 7 years. The work around has been to use F-22s which can’t carry the same payload, don’t have the same range, and are much more expensive to operate. The F-22 is being wasted in that role.
The first batches of both the F-16s and F-18s are hitting 40 and 30 respectively which means both of those fleets will need to be replaced (carrier planes have a rougher life and don’t last as long). So what are your options? The cheapest thing is to buy more F-16s, but do you really want to spend money on a 40 year old design with half the range, no stealth, crappy radar, no IR, etc. when the F-35A only costs 15-20 million more? There is the F-18E/F Super, but that is already more expensive than the F-35, and also doesn’t have stealth or the range.
The reality is that at ~$85m per plane the F-35A is hard to beat when it comes to price/performance. Not because the F-35 is super amazing, but simply because it’s the only one in its class. No one else is working on a low cost 5th gen fighter. It’s all high end 5th gen like the Typhoon and PAK-FA, or uprated 4th gens.