Benchmark contest: F-35 cost vs F-22 cost



Figuring out what the F-35 will cost is a matter of great dispute. A 20% spread exists, for instance, between Lockheed Martin’s projections and the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE).

But there is no argument about what the F-35 has cost so far. Every penny spent on the program since contract award in 2001 has been tracked and published in the selected acquisition reports.

So what are the taxpayers getting for their investment?

By the end of Fiscal 2011, if the Department of Defense’s latest budget request is approved, the F-35 program will have received $67.9 billion since the October 2001 contract award.

For that investment, Lockheed’s global supply chain will have a total of 101 production aircraft on contract, with between 28 to 58 production of those aircraft delivered.

I compared that amount to the F-22 program. By the end of Fiscal 2011, the DOD is budgeted to spend $66.7 billion, with 188 aircraft on contract and nearly that amount delivered.



To be fair, the F-35′s $67.9 billion pays for non-recurring engineering on three variants, which includes 14 flight test aircraft.

But it’s an interesting benchmark for a program such as the F-35, which has few peers of any relevance. 

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18 Responses to Benchmark contest: F-35 cost vs F-22 cost

  1. Nicolas Cousineau 20 May, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    Was it meant to be, ahem, “economical” ?

  2. Firefox 20 May, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Excellent observation, is it inflation adjusted?
    Even if no, it seems like:
    - Lockheed Martin is either using this to finance construction of a Death Star on the Mars orbit, or possibly even two Death Stars, to get multiyear contract and bring savings to the holy death cow, the taxpayer, or
    - the F-35 weight issue mystery is solved, as the tail section is by a mistake in blueprints made out of solid gold, which is by nature is a lot heavier than titanium.

  3. RAF 20 May, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    $67.9b divided by… say 4000? That will be $16,9m per copy in R&D so far. Loren T say you build one for $60m a copy. and then… No wait, I think I’ll bail out of this cost calculation. I’ll free quote a friend of mine:
    “It’s expensive to build a cheap airplane.”
    Let’s just hope that the the worst problems for LM are solved and that they can move forward.

  4. Amicus Curiae 20 May, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Steve, your words have started me musing. What would the cost of an F-35 be if the production were capped at 187 units? You pick the deviant…excuse me, the variant you want. That would be a fair comparison of production efficiencies, don’t you think?

  5. Prinz Eugn 20 May, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    Life cycle cost per aircraft plz.

  6. Stephen Trimble 21 May, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    I like you’re thinking, Amicus Curiae. I thought it was important to note that F-35 spending will eclipse F-22 spending by the end of FY2011, if current trends continue. But I hadn’t considered a useful way of making an apples for apples comparison. I think the data you’re talking about exists. Let me do some searching.

  7. Stephen Trimble 21 May, 2010 at 1:14 am #

    According to F-35 Selected Acquisition Report, the first 188 F-35As will cost $16,633.9 billion in recurring flyaway cost, using FY02 dollars. That’s about $88.4 million per aircraft.

    That compares well to the F-22, as one should expect. I haven’t found a recurring cost figure on 188 units based on FY02 dollars to make an exact comparison. But I believe average cost for F-22 was about $140 million, according to a fact sheet released by the F-22′s supporters in the Senate last July.

    If anybody has better data than that, please come forward.

  8. SMSgt Mac 21 May, 2010 at 3:14 am #

    Keep working on the ‘hypotheticals’. They’re lots of fun. Unverifiable and unreproducable, but fun. When ‘Estimators’ come up with a reliable way to estimate how much money it takes to invent and field new technology, i.e. “do what’s never been done”, and also characterize all the external variables that the program will encounter ahead of time, THEN we’ll have a way to estimate program costs with some degree of accuracy. Estimates are inevitably ‘faith-based’ at their core: Faith in knowledge sets, history, experience…
    Pick your church, pick your pew and make your estimate.

    BTW….Herr Curiae’s sense of ‘clever’ seems strangely familiar….probably just a tich’ of old CI mojo flaring up.

  9. justacopypost 23 May, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    There is a thread on F-16.net :
    http://www.f-16.net/f-16_forum_viewtopic-t-14065-postdays-0-postorder-asc-start-60.html

    From there:

    “…

    Here are the numbers for the latest F-22 (FY2009) and F-35 (FY2011) buys from the USAF FY2011 budget (F-22 on page 61 & F-35 on page 47).

    Code:

    REC = Recurring Flyaway Cost
    FUC = Flyaway Unit Cost (includes Non-Recurring items)
    WSC = Weapons System Cost (All costs related, including Adv Proc Costs)

    Model REC FUC WSC
    F-22 $146.98 $150.389 $151.510
    F-35A $121.562 $148.951 $182.543

    Even though the F-22 is FRP and the F-35 is still in LRIP, it is cheaper in every category save one. That only reason that the F-22′s WSC is so cheap in it’s last year is mainly due to the F-22 not having any Advanced Procurement Funds in it’s last year. That and all the additional LRIP related costs of the F-35 program.

    As you can see, the F-35 is already cheaper (not counting development costs) than the F-22 if they were both being built today. Actually, the F-22 would be a little more expensive due to inflation that is not reflected in the above numbers.
    … ”

    Even today F-35 cost less then F-22 and is an a/c that (will) do much more then F-22.

  10. Amicus Curiae 26 May, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    A while back I looked at the cumulative inflation figure since 2002 and it turned out to be 1.2/1 for the 2002-2009 period. I don’t know if it is a real conversion, but I use it anyway. So if I accept your 88.4 million figure just for talking purposes it goes to 106 million in 2009 dollars. I compare that to the 140 million F-22 cost that you mention. So you would get about 25% less F-22s for your money. I think the relative value to the USAF is better with the F-22. I suspect that some now retired generals told that to Bob Gates. He disagreed and they departed. Maybe it was only a coincidence

  11. Amicus Curiae 26 May, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    I think these numbers are a good for discussion, but the conclusions you draw are confusing me. I look at the same numbers you do and think there is a compelling reason to consider improving the F-22 ground attack capability as a competitive alternative to the F-35A. There would be very little risk and the USAF could end up with better overall capability. At least the F-22 is already a competent surface attack weapon and has much improvement potential. Before the termination decision, the economies of scale coming with increased production rates would have greatly benefitted the F-22. The F-35 can never have the air-to-air performance of the F-22, no matter how much money you spend on it. Apart from an apparent unrefueled range advantage, I do not understand the comment that the F-35 will do much more than the F-22. Part of my criticism of the F-22 termination was that I knew at the time that the relative cost figures between the jets were bogus. You might recall that the most egregious comparisons were like this: F-22s cost $350 million each and F-35s (will) cost $50 million each. Those figures were both correct, in their own way, but not comparable. From my point of view, the only way they were able to market the F-35 successfully was to find a way to make it cost half as much as an F-22 and stop the F-22 line. From your comment inferring the F-35 (will) do more than an F-22, I see you were also taken in by the marketing brochure that did not discourage the erroneous assumption that the newer F-35 had better performance than the old cold war relic F-22. After all, it has a family resemblance and 35 is a bigger number than 22, right? Now the real costs are evident, and so is the performance, but the F-22 line is closed. This has ensured that F-35 costs will still have an advantage over the F-22, even though F-35 cost has increased from 50-100% depending on your outlook. Yes, restarting the F-22 line will cost so much, it is uneconomical to go there. Are you a conspiracy theorist?

  12. Amicus Curiae 27 May, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Good discussion numbers, but the conclusions you draw are confusing. Why don’t these numbers compel you to consider improving the F-22 ground attack capability as an alternative to the F-35A? There would be little risk and the USAF could end up better overall. The F-22 is already a uniquely competent surface attack weapon and has more improvement potential. Economies of scale coming with increased production rates would have greatly benefitted the F-22. The F-35 can never have first class air-to-air performance. Apart from an apparent unrefueled range advantage, I do not understand the comment that the F-35 will do much more than the F-22 (less cost inferred?). Might you be a victim of JSF spin? You might recall that the most egregious cost comparisons were like this: F-22s are $350 million each and F-35s (will) cost $50 million each. Those figures were both correct, in their own way, but not comparable. Successful marketing of the F-35 required its projected cost to be less than half as much as an F-22. From your comment stating the F-35 (will) do more than an F-22, I see you were also taken in by the marketing brochure that did not discourage the erroneous assumption that the newer F-35 had better performance than the old cold war relic F-22. It has a family resemblance and 35 is a bigger number than 22, right? Now the realities of cost and performance are evident but the F-22 line is closed. This has ensured that F-35 costs will forever have an advantage over the F-22, even though F-35 cost has increased from 50-100% depending on your outlook. Yes, restarting the F-22 line will cost so much, it is uneconomical to go there. Are you a conspiracy theorist?

  13. justacopypost 29 May, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    What’s the largest weapon that fit in F-22, by weight and by LENGTH?
    F-35 can do much more then F-22 overall and in air-to-ground. The fact is that F-22 is limited by it’s bay – think at the length not only to the weight of the weapons. Because of the cost, weapons bay of the F-22 will NOT be increased. Again, length of the bay!

    Add that F-22 is not net-centric-warfare, by design. It will cost a lot to redesign it in that respect.

    The cost of F-22 is already high; inside are in fact 3 (three) version of F-22; LO/VLO technologies evolved with F-35.

    So,
    Why should one invest that much in F-22 when with F-35, with less money, one will do MORE (A2G)? What are the threats that require MORE A2A a/c in the next future?
    Btw, T-50 prototype doesn’t have the avionics, radar and engines done, not to mention that will REQUIRE a jump ahead in all that. They are 20-30 year back, at the moment … … plus the redesign of inlet … .

    I’m against conspiracy theory, as I request details and rational thinking, instead of emotional thinking. Do you have any details? I don’t.

    I also think that this will be the last year to attack F-35 as test flights kick in … The subject F-22 / F-35 was debated over and over and over on other forums …

  14. RSF 30 May, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    justacopypost:

    Your post reads like a compilation of past talking points on the F-35 vs. the F-22 from a variety of sources, and I find it amusing.

    First of all the F-35′s combat capabilities are all hypothetical (vaporware) at this point, due to the inability of LM to fly a battle ready aircraft. The few flying variants in operation (when they can be flown) are operating at Block 0.5 level. How many times have we seen the development/test flight schedule change since 2001? And IOC has been rescheduled how many times now? Your statement about the test flight schedule “kicking in” is ludicrous. At this point there are only 4000+ more test flights on the books that need to be completed before we know how effective this plane really is.

    The large weapons bays of the F-35 will mean very little if there’s are not enough Raptors to establish air superiority in the first days of a conflict. The F-35′s baseline performance is inferior to most of the existing 4.5 generation fighters flying today, and the F-22 is simply in another league in in A2A fighting prowess.

    On you comments on the T-50, perhaps you’d like to share with us the data that indicates Sukhoi is 30 years behind US technology (only in your dreams).

    Making broad statements about a new fighter by making “assumptions” from the first flying prototype is a surefire way to underestimate the true capabilities of the design.

    Since you mentioned it, perhaps a little less emotional talking, and a little more rational thinking on your part is in order.

  15. J S 19 July, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Kind of sad, the F-22 is an amazing plane. Sad to see it go over budget cuts for the fat sister that costs just as much. Why are we settling for a less dominating plane that costs just as much now? Yes it has better electronics, but that hasn’t ever stopped our legacy planes, upgrade away. Whatever, I hate the gov’t sometimes…. Most times.

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  18. TC 20 May, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    A couple factors I didn’t see mentioned.

    The US won’t export the F-22 because its so good we don’t even want our best friends to have them. The F-35 exists because we are going to export thousands of them.

    Second, why would either of these high performance jets be doing bombing runs? That’s what Tomahawks and UAVs are for after the airspace has been cleared.

    The F-22 was a great airplane killed too soon. The F-35 will be a great carrier airplane, but otherwise serves no domestic defense purpose.

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