US Air Force F-22 and F-35 fighters.
Getty Images/Steve Thorne
According to Yahoo, critics have long decried the staggering cost of the F-35 Lightning II stealth jet, which is projected to cost more than $1.5 trillion over the lifetime of the program.
But the fifth-generation multirole aircraft, which currently costs about $100 million per unit, may end up looking like a real bargain by the time the next generation of fighters comes along.
The next air-superiority fighter could cost about $300 million per unit.
The sky-high price tag for the new jet, dubbed the Penetrating Counter Air, or PCA, is based on two factors.
First, the PCA will likely improve upon the current generation’s capabilities when it comes it comes to range, payload and stealth.
And second, given the experience with the B-2, F-22 and F-35 projects, developing those new capabilities will take more time and money than anyone currently expects.
Sailors direct an F-35C Lightning II jet assigned to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron 147 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.
(MC3 Class Ethan J. Soto/Navy)
The as-yet undesigned fighter would replace hundreds of F-15 C/D and F-22 fighters that currently handle the lion’s share of the air superiority mission for the Air Force.
Given the high price and likely delays in the PCA’s development, the Air Force could end up looking for a cheaper alternative in the 2030s.
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