Some 500 F-35 jets have been built since the first model of the fighter was introduced back in 2015, with each unit costing around $80 million dollars at least. However, despite the jet being the top of its class in the US and arguably in the West in general, whether or not the F-35 is worth its cost remains an open question, The National Interest magazine suggested.
The outlet stressed that the introduction of the F-35 in the US military did have indisputable pros. Namely, due to the F-35 being, arguably, one of the most versatile fighters in the world, it could replace a whole array of other jets, such as the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the AV-8B Harrier.
Maintaining so many different machines has been a costly matter, according to the media outlet, not to mention the need to develop different pilot training programmes for each aircraft. In addition, maintenance of the ageing jets usually costs more than for the newer ones.
On the other hand, each plane still costs between $80 and $115 million, even after Lockheed Martin’s major reductions in the production cost, not to mention the hundreds of billions spent on the aircraft’s development and the total of $1.1 trillion planned to be spent over the lifetime of the programme. Even experts in the defence industry are not sure the jet was worth the costs and risks of developing it.
“No other aircraft has that level of technological advancement inserted collectively onto a single platform. Is it worth the money – well, it is worth the gamble that was originally put out there if you like, and it has paid off with a large home grown market”, John Sneller, head of aviation at Jane’s Information Group which focuses on defence-related analysis, said in an interview with The National Interest.
At the same time, the magazine noted that despite the fact that the F-35 is a technologically advanced jet capable of fulfilling the roles of several aircraft, even after its release it continues to be plagued by technical flaws and deficiencies, according to numerous reports from other media outlets – not something one would expect from an $80 million warplane.
Among the reported issues are software glitches, problems with the jet’s weight, fuel capacity (and as a result with its operational flight distance) and gun malfunctions.
The National Interest admits that many of these problems have reportedly been resolved, but summed up that the question still remains whether the F-35 is “truly the best of the best, or just an expensive flying lemon”.