F35 Worse Healthcare.gov Poster

The F-35 Is Worse Than HealthCare.gov

The $400 billion jet project is the most expensive weapon the Pentagon has ever purchased. It's also seven years behind schedule and $163 billion over budget

The United States spends more on its military than any other country in the world. In fact, it spends more than China, Russia, the U.K., Japan, France and Saudi Arabia combined.

But that doesn’t necessarily translate to “smart” spending. Take the F-35, a $199-million, Lockheed Martin-designed jet that the Pentagon initially commissioned in 2001. It’s a $400 billion project that’s nearly seven years behind schedule and $163 billion over budget.

And here’s the kicker: According to a 41-page Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released yesterday, the F-35, which has yet to fly a single official mission, will stay grounded for at least another 13 months because of “problems completing software testing.”

An F-35 Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida.
(U.S. Air Force/Samuel King Jr.)

According to the report:

Since the F-35 program restructuring was completed in March 2012, acquisition cost and schedule estimates have remained relatively stable, and the program has made progress in key areas. However, persistent software problems have slowed progress in mission systems flight testing, which is critical to delivering the warfighting capabilities expected by the military services. These persistent delays put the program’s development cost and schedule at risk. [emphasis added]

The report also concludes that the Pentagon will be forced to “increase funds steeply” over the next five years to maintain the fleet of 2,400 jets. The GAO says the F-35 will cost about $13 billion per year through 2037.

“Annual funding of this magnitude clearly poses long-term affordability risks given the current fiscal environment,” Mike Sullivan, the study’s author, notes on the report’s first page.

The F-35—its full name is the F-35 Lightning II—was initially imagined as a one-size-fits-all plane that would replace all existing fighter jets in the U.S. military. It’s a stealthy warplane that’s capable of ground attacks, reconnaissance and pretty much anything in between. It’s also capable of short takeoffs and nearly vertical landings—like a helicopter—so the jets could be deployed both from land and from aircraft carriers.

An F-35 flying over northern Florida.
(U.S. Air Force)

But what really makes the plane so unique, so expensive and at this point, so delayed, is the software onboard.

“The biggest big deal is the information this airplane gathers and processes and gives to me as the pilot,” Lt. Colonel David Berke in the Marines told 60 Minutes in February 2014, referring to the plane’s hyperalert radar. ”It’s very difficult to overstate how significant of an advancement this airplane is over anything that’s flying right now.”

That may indeed be the case. But the reality is that the program has encountered so many cost overruns, malfunctions and delays that the Pentagon reportedly considered canceling the program in August 2013, as part of a “worst-case scenario” plan. According to a report from Reuters, the government said that scaling back on the F-35 would be “one way to deal with deep budget cuts.”

For its part, Lockheed Martin maintains that the F-35 is destined to “dominate the skies” with its supersonic speed and extreme agility. The company even received a bit of good news yesterday—South Korea agreed to purchase 40 of the jets once they’re ready. It’s just a question of when—and at what cost—the high-tech jets will finally be fit for combat.


Respond Now
  • The F-35 is also replacing a lot of aircraft in the F-16, F-18, and Harrier. It is awesome and very capable aircraft.

  • This plane is a dog. Lousy performance, expensive and you don’t get enough plains to protect the Nation. Robert McNamara all ready tried this one size fits all plane idea with the F-111 and it FAILED. You get a plane that does everything but not very well. What good is stealth if the enemy has look down radar? A horrible mistake. Build planes for one mission and emphasize perfomance, perfomance, performance. 

  • Anyone developing manned fighters is crazy. Phase them out and move to unmanned. Faster, lighter, no G-forces to worry about. We’re developing battleships in a world of aircraft carriers because the old pilots are still in love.

  • let see 40 + million per copy.. take the old F-4 that is still flying in many ariforces and it cost around 2 million a copy so one coulod have 20 F-4 for the price of a single _F-35 and guess who will win in a fight like that.. You can up grade older aircraft for far less than these new aircraft

  • 14 years behind schedule????? That means the plane will be obsolete before it ever goes into service. And what genius decided to pin all of our defense on one plane? How stupid is that. A one-plane-does-it-all capability means it doesn’t do anything really great, only functional. We usually use 4 or 5 fighter types, because any weakness in one design can be countered by the others. And just for the record, the B-29 prototype was flying 9 months after it hit the drawing boards. All other prototypes, like the Mustang, Corsair, etc… were flying within a year from conception. Any plane so complicated that it takes over 14 years to develop is not going to survive in combat.   

  • Nobody cares where this money gone.. For a single outdated fighter jet!?  Nobody cares that 60,000+ bridges across US can collapse this decade. Nobody care we all in debt, and half of americans live at poverty level counting each penny. Let bomb rest of the world just because some morons with access to power want to be richer and another one lost his mind. Who cares..

  • Show More
  • Almost every new major weapons system, especially those ushering new untried technologies have significant difficulties in the beginning. A list of similar complaints and arguments against past weapons systems reads like a who’s who or what’s what of the most successful systems ever created. From the first aircraft carrier to the first aircraft to the space shuttle and numerous individual examples of these and more, every major advance has been protested and argued against by those who always find a reason for objecting to national defense. They argued against involvement in the Revolutionary War, the First World War and even World War II.The only way to appease the anti-defense, anti-defense spending and if it isn’t for my causes it’w wrong crowd would be to surrender. We already have an anti-colonialist president who is knowingly and intentionally working to turn the US into just another third world country, it’s a shame we have so many myopic and low information citizens clamoring – More for me and none for defense.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • I was with you till you started barking about Obama, try tuning off Faux News

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • Yeah, wouldn’t want to listen to the only televised, mainstream network that has a different viewpoint than the others. Big government knows best.

  • Pentagon spending is a jobs program pure and simple. The minute anyone tries to stop one of these insane projects, people start to scream about “not supporting our military” or “putting our country at risk”. It’s a runaway train.

  • I wonder if we would have been better off spending the F-35 development money on finishing the “failed” F-22, which the F-35 was supposed to save us from.

  • 2400 jets and 199 million ea is about a quadrillion.  Oops.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • LEWIS SANBORN: No, it’s slightly less than 500 billion (whereas a quadrillion is 1000 trillion).  Oops. 

  • >> the program has made progress in key areas. We feel confident that given a budget increase of as little as $3,000,000,000,000.00 and another twenty to thirty years of development that one of the F-35′s may actually be able to fly . . . . or at least taxi very, very fast.

  • Software problems? Just load Microsofts flight similator, and put the F35 in the air!

  • The Windows 8 of the Pentagon.

  • In retrospect I wish we could have spent at least some of this money helping the innocent babies, toddlers, children and women that the Syrian dictator was dumping poison gas on. To see their faces lined up in rows is a horrific, hellish, horrendous, nightmarish scenario.  Over 150,000 of the Syrians have lost their lives now…………..

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • You’re missing the point.  The US Military Budget isn’t about saving lives or making anyone safer. It’s about building really cool stuff that serves no purpose. It’s kind of like a National Endowment for the Arts project that costs a million times more . . . , and Explodes! (Way cooler than saving innocent people’s lives, huh?)

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • It’s not just that; It’s also about rewarding defense contractors with lucrative projects.

  • So the ACA cost 3 times more and critical pieces of the mandate being delayed up tp 3 years is any better? Seems to me the greater problem is government overeach into my personal being than wasted spending on national defense.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • not quite… the aca is bloated insurance offerings, no more no less… and nobody is forcing you into the exchange… unless you have a pre-existing condition and then you’re happy to have an exchange… but it is a law written by big business for big business… 

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • “nobbody is forcing you into the exchange”  Gee, and I thought being taxed for not buying in was force.  I thought having the government cancel my insurance and tell me I can no longer see the doctor of my choice was for.  You must not have a job and probably didn’t have insurance.Here is the difference:  Obamacare is designed to lessens my freedom.  Bloated, inefficient, stupid mistakes by the military is designed to protect my freedom.  It really is not a difficlut choice.


Meet the Man Who Invented Israel's Iron Dome

Ralph Avellino

Inside Gaza's Smuggling Tunnels

Vocativ Staff

Inside the U.N.'s 850-Calorie "Diet" for Refugees

Mythili Sampathkumar

Religious Kids Are Easy to Fool: Study

Luke Malone

Japanese Artist Arrested for Sharing Directions to 3D Print Her Vagina

Elizabeth Kulze

This Gadget Texts You if There Are Date-Rape Drugs in Your Drink

Elizabeth Kulze

There's a Reason Why Learning That Second Language Is So Hard

Emily Levy

Inside Turkey’s Yoga Sex Scandal

Elcin Poyrazlar
Join the Fray
Obamacare Is Actually Good. No, Really