The F-35 and Other Legacies of Failure, by Dan Grazier

Don’t hold your breath, but there’s a possibility that the F-35 boondoggle will be stopped before it soaks taxpayers for additional hundreds of billions of dollars. From Dan Frazier at pogo.org:

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen; Illustration: Leslie Garvey / POGO)

For 20 years, the Pentagon’s program to develop the F-35 aircraft appeared invincible, even as the project hit repeated delays and went well over budget. And then, just within the span of a few weeks, official support for the F-35 has seemingly evaporated. It could not come soon enough.

At the end of the Trump administration, the acting secretary of defense called it a “piece of…” The Air Force chief admitted the F-35 would never be able to live up to its original purpose. And now, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee said we should stop throwing money down the F-35 “rathole.”

This all comes as the program is rightfully on a list of programs facing a Pentagon review that could result in recommended cuts to the total number of aircraft to be purchased. It signals a tectonic shift in support for a program that previously received near universal official support from the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

This shift is due to the sudden realization in Washington, despite years of warnings, that the F-35 is too challenging and costly to maintain.

And if there are to be major changes to the F-35 program, now is the time to do it. Otherwise, if the program does manage to squeak through operational testing, Congress could then authorize a bulk purchase of F-35s, something the program office and the manufacturer have wanted for years. But even if the plane is technically deemed operational, such a move would saddle the services with hundreds of flawed, high-maintenance aircraft, which will depress readiness rates, further strain the already harrowed maintenance crews, and require years of costly retrofits.

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