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Tue Oct 30, 2012, 07:58 AM

Michael Byers & Stewart Webb on the F-35: The plane that keeps on billing



Michael Byers & Stewart Webb on the F-35: The plane that keeps on billing
Michael Byers & Stewart Webb | Oct 30, 2012 12:01 AM ET

“If you went out and bought yourself a new minivan and you wanted to drive it off the lot, you wouldn’t calculate the gas, the washer fluid, the oil and give yourself a salary to drive it for the next 15 or 20 years.”

That was Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s response to Michael Ferguson in April, after the Auditor-General used “life-cycle costs” to calculate the full impact that buying F-35 stealth fighter jets would have on the federal treasury.

But buying an F-35 is nothing like buying a minivan. Nobody buys a new car in the expectation that key components — engine, windshield, electronics — will need to be replaced or upgraded within a few years, while still perfectly functional.


Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, admits that it has only a “notional” outline of the content of the blocks. Many of the upgrades will be to the 9.5 million lines of computer code that are still being written for the F-35, but others will be upgrades to the hardware of the aircraft itself. For instance, Lockheed Martin foresees that Block 6 will include canopy extensions and improvements to the range and propulsion of the aircraft — in other words, new engines.

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Reply Michael Byers & Stewart Webb on the F-35: The plane that keeps on billing (Original post)
unhappycamper Oct 2012 OP
JustABozoOnThisBus Oct 2012 #1

Response to unhappycamper (Original post)

Tue Oct 30, 2012, 12:28 PM

1. Comparing an F-35 to a minivan is not quite fair

But compare the F-35 to a NASCAR or Formula 1 team, and they start to look the same. Before assembling a race team, you might want to figure the cost of the car, the mechanics, the drivers' salaries, the cost of replacing engine, windshield, electronics, everything that factors into the business of racing. The Pentagon (and its British counterpart) are responsible for the "life-cycle costs" and need to take their best shot at guessing the ongoing costs of these things.

A good fighter squadron will have a few spare engines sitting on a shelf somewhere, just like an auto racing team.

Of course, you could soup up that old minivan ...

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