July 30, 2014

The wrong stuff: The F-35 vs. what U.S. airpower really needs in the future

By Kelley Sayler

The fact that the F-35 Lightning II isn’t making an appearance at the Farnborough International Airshow is the latest in a never-ending string of disappointments that have marked the plane’s controversial history.  From past challenges with tail hooks and tires to engine cracks and engine fires, life has never been easy for the F-35, which has even had to confront an embarrassing vulnerability to its namesake weather phenomenon.

Such setbacks might be acceptable — and expected — in a nascent experimental program, but the F-35 has already been in production for 8 years.  Indeed, largely due to concurrent testing and production, an approach that Under Secretary of Defense for AT&L Frank Kendall memorably referred to as "acquisition malpractice" (and one that hopefully will not be replicated any time soon), DOD will spend $1.65 billion merely to bring early-production jets up to standard.  Total program acquisition costs will reach $398.6 billion, with 55-year life-cycle costs surpassing the stratospheric $1 trillion mark, thus solidifying the F-35’s legacy as the most expensive weapons program in history.

Read the full post on Foreign Policy's Best Defense blog.

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