F-35 Costs Feed Order Uncertainty

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Japan Wednesday said it may cancel orders for Lockheed Martin's F-35 if costs or timelines increase, just days after the Pentagon said it was seeking ways to reduce the program's projected $1 trillion cost. The Pentagon's figure is an estimated lifetime cost, which includes maintenance and operation of 2,443 F-35 fighters over the next 50 years. Japan's initial cost has been projected near $122 million per fighter for a first group of just four aircraft, after which an order of 42 could follow. But that deal has not yet been finalized and recent changes could put upward pressure on the cost of the jet.

The Pentagon's decision to delay for five years an order for 179 planes could save the government $15 billion in the near term but also increase the price of the jet. Any future delays in the jet's development could have similar results. Japanese authorities have said that changes such as those could have serious implications. Japan Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told his country's parliament, "I believe we would need to consider as a potential option matters like canceling our orders and starting a new selection process," Reuters reported. And that, too, could increase the price of the jet for its remaining buyers.