19:06 GMT12 April 2021
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    The US Department of Defense is under fire for its reluctance to separate a $3 billion upgrade of weapons for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from the overall program that is expected to cost more than $1 trillion, the US General Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report on Tuesday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Over the next 55 years, the cost of developing, producing and maintaining the 5th generation fighter jet is projected at $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.

    "If the Block 4 [weapons upgrade] effort is not established as a separate acquisition program, transparency will be limited," the report explained. "Therefore, it will be difficult for Congress to hold it accountable for achieving its cost, schedule and performance requirements."

    The dispute over accounting for the Block 4 featured prominently in a hearing on Tuesday by the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

    Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall told lawmakers that funding the weapons upgrade as a separate acquisition program would create "a lot of additional bureaucracy and cost."

    GAO Acquisition and Sourcing Management Director Michael Sullivan replied that a similar weapons upgrade for F-22 fighter, estimated at $2 billion, quickly swelled to $11 billion because there was no accountability.

    Since its inception, the F-35 jet has been beset with problems, including wings that crack, software that freezes, poor pilot visibility, faulty radar, ejection seats that do not work and a multitude of other problems.


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