F-35 Bookkeeping…

F35As defense secretary, Robert Gates withheld $614 million from Lockheed Martin in 2010 for its lackluster work on the $400 billion F-35 fighter program, the most costly weapon system ever bought.

Source: F-35 Bookkeeping | TIME.com.

A few hundred million here a few hundred million there and before long you are talking about real money. It is totally unfathomable to me how we could spend $400 billion on one plane design!  But it seems that the $614 million that Gates took away was actually just delayed. He planed on giving it back at a later date. I can only hope that Secretary Hagel is a little more stingy with my tax dollars.

I like to figure, especially when my money is being spent, just what something is going to cost me and what benefit will I glean from it.  For the sake of this post let me assume that I am in the military aircraft buying mode. I can’t possibly see that actually happening even in a moral support thing but lets assume it anyway.

At an estimated $140 million each these planes will be by far the most expensive ever built. I’m sure a very big percentage of that cost is justified as being about pilot safety.  Being stingy with my own money I can’t see why we don’t shelve this whole thing and build a few more pilotless drones to replace them.

The F-35 is as above costed at $140 million each and is estimated to cost about $600/hour to operate. The MQ-1 drone, which is currently the primary drone of choice costs about $4 million each and cost about $3.50/hour to operate. So getting my calculator out I can buy thirty-five drones and still save money and of course risk no pilot’s lives. If I were the enemy which would I be more fearful of, one super expensive plane with a pilot on board, or thirty five drones circling over head.  I don’t know much about the terrorist business but I would expect the later.

I hope there are at least a few bean-counter left in Washington to figure this stuff out. I know the drone industry is much like the fighter aircraft business who see this cash-cow and are trying to figure out how to add more bells and whistles to drones to drive up the costs and therefore their profits so we might just have a short window of opportunity to make a decision here. If they don’t have enough calculators in the Pentagon I would be more than willing to send them a few of mine. I seem to have plenty of them around.