The most expensive weapons program in U.S. history is about to get a lot pricier.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant to replace nearly every tactical warplane in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, was already expected to cost $1 trillion dollars for development, production and maintenance over the next 50 years. Now that cost is expected to grow, owing to 13 different design flaws uncovered in the last two months by a hush-hush panel of five Pentagon experts. It could cost up to a billion dollars to fix the flaws on copies of the jet already in production, to say nothing of those yet to come.
In addition to costing more, the stealthy F-35 could take longer to complete testing. That could delay the stealthy jet’s combat debut to sometime after 2018 — seven years later than originally planned. And all this comes as the Pentagon braces for big cuts to its budget while trying to save cherished but costly programs like the Joint Strike Fighter.
Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons-buyer, convened the so-called “Quick Look Review” panel in October. Its report — 55 pages of dense technical jargon and intricate charts — was leaked this weekend. Kendall and company found a laundry list of flaws with the F-35, including a poorly placed tail hook, lagging sensors, a buggy electrical system and structural cracks.