The A-Bomb and the F-35 Debacle

The aircraft will cost 15 times atomic bomb development, after adjusting for inflation.

Want some perspective on the $397 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program? Check out its cost and timeline versus the cost and time it took to develop the atomic bomb in World War II.

The total bill for development of the A-bomb came to $2 billion in 1940s dollars, which the smart folks at Wikipedia computed at $26 billion in 2013 dollars.

This means the cost to develop and buy just fewer than 2,500 F-35s comes in at staggering 15 times the bill for the A-bomb, a far more challenging, and truly scientific task.

Government-backed research and development of the A-bomb lasted slightly more than five years, from June 1941 until July 16, 1945, when the first bomb was successfully tested at the “Trinity” site, east of Socorro, N.M.

The Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday that the F-35 will not be ready for combat operations – or full production – until 2019, 23 years after Lockheed Martin won its first contract for the plane in a fly-off competition with Boeing.

That fly-off cost far more than the original investment in  the A-bomb – Lockheed and Boeing each received $750 million development contracts, versus the initial funds committed to A-bomb research in 1941, a mere $167,000, or a rounding error in the Defense Department today.

Too bad J. Robert Oppenheimer, who managed the A-bomb research, and Army Gen. Leslie Grove, who ran the overall Manhattan Project, aren’t around today to provide some assistance on the F-35.