Deputy F-35 program manager Air Force Major General Christopher Bogdan said on Monday the government's relationship with Lockheed was the "worst I've ever seen" in many years of working on complex acquisition programs.
He said those tensions posed a bigger threat to the Pentagon's biggest weapons program than even nagging problems on the plane's software, helmet and a complex computer system that manages functions ranging from parts supply to mission planning.
The F-35 was designed to work with a sophisticated helmet that displays all the information the pilot needs to fly the plane.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told reporters the Pentagon had no more money to pour into the program after three costly restructurings in recent years. That meant any additional cost overruns would eat into the number of planes to be ordered, schedule delays or reduced capabilities, he said.
"The department is done with major restructures that involve transferring billions of dollars into the F-35 program from somewhere else in the defense budget. There's no further flexibility or tolerance for that approach," Donley said.