Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

So … the Air Force’s Secret New Fighter Jet Will Be Wildly Expensive

Posted by M. C. on May 9, 2022

Kyle Mizokami

One reason the Fed was created was to pay the suppliers of war with the hidden tax, inflation.

Photo credit: YouTube/Northrop Grumman
Photo credit: YouTube/Northrop Grumman

The U.S. Air Force is bracing the public—and Congress—for the highly anticipated Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter and the sticker shock wave the world’s first sixth-generation jet will leave in its wake. The NGAD fighter, set to begin replacing the F-22 Raptor in 2030, will cost “multiple hundreds of millions of dollars,” easily two or three times the cost of the F-35. The fighter is being optimized for the Asia Pacific theater and will be accompanied into battle by robotic sidekicks.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, in remarks reported by Defense News, told lawmakers that the crewed version of the NGAD fighter jet would cost “multiple” hundreds of millions of dollars. NGAD includes both crewed and uncrewed fighters; the uncrewed version would cost no more than half as much as the crewed version.

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A per-unit cost of $200 million would easily make crewed NGAD fighters the most expensive fighter jet of all time. And to be clear, Kendall’s statement leaves plenty of room for the jet to actually cost in excess of $300 million. For context, the F-35A costs $77 million, while the new, updated F-15EX Super Eagle costs $80 million. If a crewed NGAD costs $300 million and the uncrewed version $150 million, that same pot of money could buy nearly six F-35As.

NGAD is a fundamentally different aircraft than the F-35A. The F-35A was designed in the 1990s as an economical replacement for several fighters, including the F/A-18CAV-8B HarrierF-16, and A-10 Thunderbolt. The F-35 was designed to fulfill multiple missions, including traditional fighter air-to-air roles, air-to-ground strike roles, and close air support. The new fighter is better compared to—and will replace—the F-22A Raptor, the world’s first fifth-generation fighter, designed purely for the air superiority mission.

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