Defense

F-35 cockpit upgrade has $444 million cost overrun

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Lockheed Martin spent $444 million more than expected to upgrade the F-35 fighter jet’s power and memory, a cost overrun that U.S. taxpayers and allied partners must pay, Bloomberg reported.

The 63 percent overrun was due to the task being “more complex than originally thought,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Lockheed won the initial $712 million contract to redesign hardware and software for the F-35 cockpit computer in December 2018.

The extra dollars have now bumped the program cost to an estimated $1.28 billion.

Delays that caused the increase “are due to the late completion of the final developmental hardware configuration, which is delaying software and system integration testing,” Laura Seal, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department’s F-35 program office, told Bloomberg in a statement.

Known as the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system ever, the F-35 continues to stack up problems, which have included more than 800 unresolved software and hardware issues and delays, an engine shortage and a constant barrage from lawmakers that deem its cost and deficiencies outrageous.

The fifth-generation fighter jet is now expected to cost $398 billion to develop and build – with a lifetime cost of $1.7 trillion – but as of January, only 69 percent of the completed jets can meet at least one assigned mission, far below the military’s 80 percent goal.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) last month said he wants to “stop throwing money down that particular rathole.”

“What does the F-35 give us? And is there a way to cut our losses? Is there a way to not keep spending that much money for such a low capability because, as you know, the sustainment costs are brutal,” Smith added.

The $444 million overrun, caused by the F-35’s computer upgrade known as the “Technical Refresh-3,” is not expected to prevent Lockheed from meeting its contractual 2023 delivery of the technology on a new batch of jets, Seal said. The contract remains in negotiation between Lockheed and the Pentagon.

Seal also insisted that despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in overrun, Lockheed and its key subcontractor, L3Harris Technologies, “have agreed to forfeit a significant portion of their fee” on the upgrade contract.

The companies are only giving up $60 million, an industry official familiar with the contract told Bloomberg.

Lockheed spokesman Brett Ashworth, meanwhile, told Bloomberg that the overrun was “primarily a result of hardware supplier challenges and Covid-19 impacts.”

The latest F-35 issue comes ahead of a Thursday congressional hearing on the jet, where its high cost and deficiencies are likely to be picked apart.

In total, Lockheed has delivered 625 of the more than 3,000 planned fighters to the U.S. military and eight other countries.

Tags Adam Smith F-35 fighter jet Lockheed Martin

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