04:20 GMT28 July 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US military services face tens of billions in sustainment costs that could make plans to acquire nearly 2,500 F-35 aircraft unaffordable, the General Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report on Wednesday.

    “For example, the Air Force needs to reduce estimated annual per-plane costs by $3.7 million (47 percent) by 2036, or costs in that year alone will be $4.4 billion more than it can afford,” the report said.

    Instead, estimated sustainment costs over the aircrafts’ 66-year life cycle have risen steadily since 2012 - from $1.11 trillion to $1.27 trillion - despite efforts to trim expenses, the report said.

    The F-35 program estimates that it will declare Milestone C - a decision point for moving into full-rate production of the aircraft -sometime in the 2021-2023 time frame, the report added.

    But without assessing cost-reduction efforts and program requirements, such as number of planned aircraft, and developing a plan prior to declaring Milestone C, the Defense Department may continue to invest resources in a program it ultimately cannot afford, according to the report.

    The report recommended that Congress consider making future purchases of the fifth-generation aircraft contingent on progress reducing sustainment costs.


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