First off your figures are off...The most recent estimates are significantly lower than that $134.5 million you quote. But I prefer in matters like this to as the experts on the aircraft instead of taking your word if you don't mind....
"the USMC stood up its first operational F-35 squadron. The squadron, VMFA 121, is commanded by Lt. Col. Jeffery Scott, who talked about the fighter in a recent interview:
The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jet will be a strategic deterrent for the nation because of its “huge leap in capability,” a Marine Corps pilot said. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Scott, commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., recently told the Pentagon Channel the F-35 will allow Marines to perform missions in high-threat areas, unlike existing aircraft.
The F-35 will be able to do every mission now performed by the AV-8 Harrier does now, but will be able to do it in more situations, said Scott, who is involved with flying and testing the new aircraft. The new fighter will provide access to more areas, he explained, and will allow more time for rolling back enemy defenses.
Something often ignored by criticsis the overall capability of the F-35. It will not only do what the AV-8 now does, it will also do everything the F/A 18 does - and more.
“The sensors and systems are the big leap deploying the aircraft in terms of tactics,” he said.
“The Lightning will fulfill a lot of the functions of Marine Corps aviation — such as [our] air support role, antiair, targeting enemy ground locations and supporting the troops on the ground — as Harriers and [F/A-18] Hornets do now,” he added. “But it brings more in one aircraft in its ability to protect itself from the enemy.”
The sensor suite, as recognized by Lt. Col. Scott, is the generational leap. The sensor fusion, that is having the aircraft fusing the sensor data vs. requiring the pilot to do that, make the difference. That difference means the pilot can concentrate on mission and defense. Add to that the fact that the F-35 networks with other systems as well as other F-35s and one can begin to see the possibilities of those sorts of capabilities. Additionally, all the roles mentioned by Scott are contained in one aircraft without necessitating reconfiguration for each mission or limiting it to one mission at a time. That means fewer aircraft doing more missions.
That is a huge capabilities shift to the positive side.
Scott's squadron will now develop and test the squadron level tactics, maintenance and other critical items for the F-35 that will eventually become standard operating procedure for future USMC F-35 squadrons.
Scott said the F-35 will give the military “a huge leap in capability, probably five or six steps beyond what we now have.”
“We’re going to have this aircraft for a long time,” he said. “As we get more and more of these aircraft in all of the services, we’re going to see a lot of the benefits that the aircraft has in terms of commonality. As we start operating tactically, some of the communications [and] capabilities will become more and more valuable to the services, … and it will be in demand to combatant commanders around the world.”
If you're interested in what this aircraft can do and will do, listening to those who fly it and maintain it is in your best interest. The F-35 continues to develop well in testing and appears to be well on its way to fulfilling all those promised capabilities. Lt. Col. Scott is obviously one of the Marine Corps top pilots, having been given command of its first F-35 squadron. His enthusiasm for the aircraft and its capabilities, his understanding of what it promises, tell you a lot more than the critics who don't even understand why VMAF-121 was made operational.
The pilots apparently like what they see, feel and fly with the F-35. They like the capabilities the aircraft brings to the fight. It is their lives that will be on the line when it does go fully operational and is committed to combat for the first time. They are looking forward to flying it for a long time to come.
That should tell you all you need to know."
Why the F-35?