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GAO Report on F-35 Cost Growth, Schedule Delays

The following is the April 25, 2022 Government Accountability Office report, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Cost Growth and Schedule Delays Continue.

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has not yet authorized the F-35 program to
begin full-rate production. Full-rate production generally is the point when a
program has demonstrated an acceptable level of performance and reliability;
and in the case of the F-35, is ready for higher manufacturing rates. The delay in
reaching this milestone stems largely from problems and delays developing the
F-35 simulator, needed for crucial testing. The program is projected to finalize its
schedule in spring 2022. As a result, the date for the full-rate production decision
remains undetermined at this time. Despite this delayed decision, DOD is
planning on acquiring up to 152 aircraft per year. At that rate, DOD would
purchase about one-third of all planned F-35 aircraft before achieving this
production milestone, which increases risk. For example, it means that more
aircraft will need to be fixed later if more performance issues are identified, which
will cost more than if those issues were resolved before those aircraft were
produced. At the same time that DOD is purchasing aircraft at these high rates,
those that are already in the fleet are not performing as well as expected.

DOD is also 4 years into development of its modernization effort, known as Block
4, which is continuing to experience cost growth and schedule delays. Block 4
costs continued to rise during 2021 due to higher costs associated with
upgrading crucial hardware and testing upgrades, among other things. The
program office extended Block 4 development and delivery into fiscal year
2029—which is now 3 years beyond the original plan (see figure). To avoid
further delays, the program office is taking steps to improve the timeliness and
quality of software deliveries, but it is too soon to tell whether these actions will
result in improved outcomes for Block 4.


The F-35 program office has changed plans from replacing its logistics system
and is now taking incremental steps to improve and modernize it. The Autonomic
Logistics Information System (ALIS) has faced long-standing challenges,
including technical complexity, poor usability, and inaccurate or missing data.
Initially, the F-35 program intended to develop a new system to replace ALIS.
However, the program office now plans to make gradual improvements to ALIS
and eventually rename it. These planned improvements include smaller
hardware and improved program data access. The program has yet to identify a
date for when it will consider this transition complete but has mapped out the
improvements it intends to make over the next 3 years.

Download the document here.