As the services buy new planes, older ones may remain permanently unfit for combat. The Pentagon may end up with about 200 F-35s that remain unready for war. Because of defense budget headaches, the money to fix them up is going somewhere else. The Armed Services are currently spending their procurement money buying the latest F-35s, and with limited defense dollars to go around, the services are buying the jet in large lots to lower costs.
If the Pentagon diverts monies from buying new jets to upgrading the old ones, it will have to buy fewer new jets at higher prices per plane. However, the quest to lower prices today may mean that 189 airplanes—a $39.4 billion investment—end up sub-par. It’s important to note that the this is just one option floated by the F-35 office and may not come to pass. Even if it is implemented, the F-35’s production lines will crank out planes for decades, and the upgrades could be performed at a later date when money is available. What is for certain, however, is that the concurrency model has been a persistent, decade-long headache for everyone involved. Next time, maybe the Pentagon should avoid buying a warplane until it is truly ready for mass production.