Defense Dept. says F-35 fighter program's costs to significantly rise

Defense Department officials have told Congress that the already ballooning costs of the F-35 joint strike fighter are likely to soar much higher when new estimates are completed in the summer.

In the Selected Acquisition Report for the F-35, a detailed document sent to Congress on Thursday, the Pentagon said it expects that cost studies now under way will produce estimates dramatically higher than those used in recent months to prepare the 2011 defense budget request.

Based on figures in the document, the average cost of one F-35 — $62 million when the program was launched in 2002 — could rise to $115.5 million, not counting inflation, by the time all 2,457 planes that the U.S. plans to buy are built.

Including inflation, the government now expects each F-35 to cost an average of $133.6 million. But even that figure could swell to more than $150 million when revised estimates are completed in June.

The report was obtained by the online news service, which reported it in a story posted on its Web site Wednesday. The Star-Telegram obtained its own copy of the report.

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