Both Smith and Capt. Wade Knudson, the Navy's F-35 program manager, said program managers do not anticipate a delivery delay and both dispute the extent of the cost overruns found by the GAO.
Cost increases have been partially caused by the dollar's plummeting value, Knudson
said, one week after the GAO report was released.
"We buy a lot of overseas materials," Knudson
said.Exchange rate fluctuations "have played a substantial role in the development costs of the airplane."
Last week, the Euro rose to a record high, with one Euro worth $1.56, an increase that has caused significant cost increases because most of the foreign components will be built in Europe, which is also where much of the design work for the Lightning II
will be done.Knudson
was unable to say how much the currency fluctuations increased costs as of Tuesday afternoon, but he
did say that program managers have offset currency fluctuations with savings in other design areas and effectively kept prices level within the past year.Knudson
said the Navy Department expects to pay approximately $60 million in 2002 dollars for each of the 680 F-35s it will buy.He
said Navy Department officials have not yet decided what portion of the 680 will be carrier-based jets flown by Navy pilots and what portion will be short takeoff and vertical landing models for Marine pilots.