Already 10 years in the works, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth jets that have cost the Department of Defense hundreds of billions of dollars are being pushed back by two years, with the latest update suggesting the fleet will be ready in 2018.
So far the DoD has invested almost $400 billion into producing the space-age fleet, which would come as a welcomed addition to an antiquate arsenal of aircraft that have been flying out of bases for decades.
Until recently, the F-35 was expected to be ready in time for 2016, but orders of thousands of additional testing will push the deadline back by another two years. As a result, the US Air Force has asked Congress for $3 billion to upgrade its current fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon jets.
At its current price tag, the F-35 program has been the most expensive weapons endeavor ever carried out by the Pentagon. Barely half-way through production, costs are expected to continue to soar high as the aircraft undergoes additional testing.
When congressional leaders questioned the Military on the progress of the F-35 and the need for more money, officers on hand responded that a master schedule would not be completed until later in the year to show the plan of attack for the rest of the F-35A production.
In the interim, the billions being asked to upgrade the F-16 fleet will aim to keep the aircraft up in the sky until the F-35s are ready. Those billions will need to be spread well enough to keep the craft in the sky while the F-35 undergoes indefinite tests, however.
According to a written testimony offered up by the Air Force, the availability of the F-16 as of now is only at 65.6 percent, citing “Extensive flight hours and stressing mission profiles” to Congress. To the Wall Street Journal only two months ago, Lt. David A. Deptula II described the current capabilities of his Military division as almost archaic.
“We have a geriatric Air Force,” Deptula said during a sit-down in September. Today Wired.com reports that around 500 F-15Cs, Ds and Es will stay in the air through 2030, at which point the freshest of the fleet will be approaching an age of 40 years. They add that more than 300 of the F-16s in operation right now are expected to make it through this decade, at which point they will average at around 40 years old.