The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is on track to be the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history, with a total lifetime cost pegged at roughly $1.7 trillion.
Although more than 750 of the jets have been delivered to the U.S. military and foreign customers, problems persist in the production line, with more than 25% of the aircraft arriving late, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. At the same time, GAO says that F-35s are being delivered before a modernization program initiated four years ago has been completed, meaning that hundreds of jets may have to be retrofitted in the future, requiring additional time and expense.
Due to the ongoing problems, the Department of Defense has been unable to declare that the F-35 is ready for “full-rate production,” a bureaucratic certification that the jet is ready to go. But Lockheed Martin is producing the jets at a relatively high rate of roughly 150 per year anyway, which could mean that about a third of all Joint Strike Fighters end up being manufactured before being given the all-clear by the Pentagon.