16:16 GMT30 May 2020
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    A US government agency has suggested that the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the most expensive weapons program in history, will add an extra $1.7 billion to its costs, but defense analyst Dan Grazier asserted that the price tag for the troubled project is likely to continue increasing beyond these estimates.

    Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the US Congress, released a report saying that "cascading F-35 testing delays" are expected to require an additional $1.7 billion and 12 months to complete the baseline program.

    "As bad as this news is for the program, there is reason to believe the GAO is being conservative in its estimate," Grazier said.

    The analyst pointed out that the report did not take into account that the upcoming testing which the F-35 is required to undergo will be the most complex of all hitherto.

    "These [tests] include the critical Weapons Delivery Accuracy tests, which are important because rather than just testing to make sure an individual component functions properly, they test the entire kill chain," he explained. "This means the tests will see if a pilot can locate and properly identify a target, hit it with the right weapon and then tell if the target has been destroyed – just the sort of thing a pilot would have to do to be effective in combat."

    Such tests require several aircraft flying together, which is a challenge for the F-35, the analyst said.

    "The test fleet requires an availability rate of 80 percent for an efficient test program; anything less than that risks delaying the completion of testing. The current test fleet based at Edwards Air Force Base in California had an availability rate of only 48 percent during the first 9 months of 2016. For this reason alone, the GAO estimate of an additional year and $1.7 billion to complete development is likely low," he said.

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    Tags:
    delay, tests, costs, F-35 Lightning II, US Government Accountability Office (GAO), United States
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