Why not buy up Spain instead? (Tom Harvey/Associated Press)

A final note on expense: The F-35 will actually cost multiples of the $395.7 billion cited above. That is the current estimate only to acquire it, not the full life-cycle cost to operate it. The current appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion — making for a grand total of $1.5 trillion, or more than the annual GDP of Spain.* And that estimate is wildly optimistic.

That’s for 2,457 aircraft, all told. Wheeler has a fuller discussion of the pros and cons of the F-35 program here (he’s in favor of scrapping it). Congress is already facing pressure to delay or cut the program to save money.

*And yes, the F-35 costs are over 55 years, while $1.5 trillion is only one year’s output for Spain. The Pentagon couldn’t literally buy the country.