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GAO: DOD Must Reduce F-35 Costs to Achieve Affordability, Better Readiness Rates

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in an assessment that the Department of Defense (DOD) has improved the readiness rates of F-35 aircraft but still has more work and cost reduction to meet warfighter requirements.

GAO said Wednesday that it discovered that the U.S. F-35 fleet exhibited a mission-capable rate growth from 59 to 69 percent between fiscal years 2019 and 2020, a result that still falls below the military's objectives.

The fleet also exhibited an insufficient full mission capable rate of 39 percent. This rate refers to the amount of time in which a jet can do all of its tasks.

The U.S. Air Force needs to drive down estimated costs per tail per year by $3.7 million 15 years from now, or else the service might need to pay $4.4 billion beyond the current cost projection, according to GAO. DOD must meet cost requirements to fulfill readiness objectives.

The accountability office also expects that reports on affordability constraints would help DOD demonstrate accountability for sustaining the F-35 program.

GAO conducts assessments on F-35 sustainment efforts as mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020.