The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is $163 billion over budget, seven years behind schedule, and will cost taxpayers about twice as much as sending a man to the moon. But according to Pentagon officials, the Lockheed Martin-built plane is light years ahead of its competition from other countries, and there’s no turning back on the project now.
In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday night, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, called the $400 billion purchase “acquisition malpractice” that strayed from the long-standing “fly-before-you-buy” rule.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who is in charge of the program, said problems plaguing the planes included many simple mistakes, everything from wingtip lights that didn’t meet FAA standards to tires that couldn’t sustain the landing.
“Tires aren’t rocket science,” Bogdan said, bemoaning the cost of problems he didn’t think Lockheed Martin should be facing.
Despite the project’s problems, military officials say the planes are unlike any others and provide invaluable advantages over countries like Russia and China.