Most expensive U.S. fighter jet program moves forward
October 16th, 2012
07:18 PM ET

Most expensive U.S. fighter jet program moves forward

By Larry Shaughnessy

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been a magnet for problems for years, but the new warplane's developers are slowly making progress toward deployment.

During testing at a facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey, pilots flying the Navy's carrier variant successfully caught five arresting wires in eight attempts, according to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program office.

That's an improvement over the first tests when pilots couldn't hook the wire. But it is not good enough.

The Pentagon's most expensive fighter jet has been afflicted by delays and a ballooning cost of nearly $400 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The cost per plane has doubled since the program began in 2001, according to the GAO.

For a fighter to land on a carrier, a hook projecting from the bottom of the jet must grab a wire stretched across the deck. If the hook doesn't grab the wire, the pilot has to take off. So when the F-35 C failed initial tests, it spelled serious trouble for the Navy portion of the program.

DellaVedova said Lockheed Martin, the jet's builder, improved the shape of the hook as well as a device that pushes it down to better catch the wire.

Despite improvements, it will be awhile before F-35 C's land on a carrier at sea. As of now, the first sea trials are slated for spring of 2014.

Meanwhile, the Air Force on Tuesday successfully dropped an inert 2,000-pound bomb in an F-35 test flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It was the first such bomb deployment by the Air Force's version of the jet.

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. NYC Fitness Event

    What a plane! I will keep my eyes open for the test results this spring. It’s nice to see were our tax dollars are going.

    January 31, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Reply
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    December 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  3. King Crimson

    So....half a TRILLION dollars for a little airplane. that only works 50% percent of the time (...That's AFTER improvements)

    Way to go, Lockheed Martin! Way to suck up all my Tax dollars that I am spending

    I always wondered where my money went to...now, I know. Enjoy your pension.

    November 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  4. markodavid

    400 B! Gawd what a waste..Just think what that money could do.Oh,my mistake the patriots on this site don't do that "Thinking thing"THAT might lead to a revelation like this is why America IS going to hell.

    November 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  5. SayanIndia

    In case of F-35 the position of the “hook” in close proximity of the undercarriage was the cause of problem. Thankfully the designers appear to have resolved it.

    Sayan.

    November 9, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
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    November 7, 2012 at 4:44 am | Reply
  7. Mark

    Why are both pictures of F-22 Rapter Fighters with photo shopped vertical stabilizers.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:02 am | Reply
    • PhotoshopiseverywherelikeRUPERTFOX

      Spyder

      Back in the late '60's and early '70's, I was in a Navy task force that patrolled this area quite extensively. We'd pick up their boomers coming out of Polyarny and track them to our coastal waters. You could almost walk across the Atlantic with the sonar bouys we dropped to detect them. It was all part of a very dangerous game in a maddening theater. Nothing new here. I'm sure we're not very far off their coast either.

      November 7, 2012 at 9:57 am | Reply

      Rodger

      So you saw Hunt for Red October too? Your post is taken right out of the script

      November 7, 2012 at 10:16 am | Reply

      So NOT News

      why was this even written? there's ALWAYS a Russian sub off the US coast -just as there are ALWAYS US subs in the waters of Russia, China and anywhere else we damn well want to go. its called practice.
      everyone's subs not only go close to others shores, we actually go so far as actually entering Russian harbors and literally sneaking up within 100 feet of docked surface ships -because we CAN. our fleet runs so silent we can do that. if anyone but some CNN person who doesnt know squat about simple routine military matters would know, we actually bumped a Russian ship in port a decade or so ago and were barely ably to bug out w/o getting caught.
      plus, the Russian sub we detected, we probably knew simply b/c of his sound signature what his sail # was and were tracking him from the second he left his base until he got here. yes-we're that good.
      but making war is big business. and the slimy arms mfrs just wanna keep cashing the checks rather than do whats best for this country- cut the defense budget 40% and use SOME of the money to engage in massive infrastructure rebuilding as the Chinese did for the last decade. thats main reason their GDP grew quickly. that and selling Americans cheap plastic crap. we got lots of roads, bridges, schools and *especially* electrical distribution networks (T&D lines and switching stations) that would go a long way to
      a) create a TON of US jobs that CANT be exported or destroyed by the Bain Capital types
      b) greatly increase GDP b/c the workers will go out and spend their wages HERE not in China and
      c) improve our general efficiency reducing commute times, reduce power production needs and reduce gas prices b/c
      we'll need to drive less. this means more rail and public transportation projects.

      -but this is so NOT news. maybe the warmongers are trying to drum up more ridiculousness so they can all keep pi$$ing away tax money and getting kids sent home in boxes so they can keep paying the mortgage and the country club membership. go write something about THAT.

      November 7, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply

      November 7, 2012 at 10:25 am | Reply
    • Enzo Tommasi

      good question

      November 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  8. TomGI

    And imagine that the F-35 has 4 empty computer bays that will eventually hold the electronics which will make this a UAV. So the Chinese can face a combat formation of 4 aircraft all unmanned (and probably autonomous to some greater or lesser degree) armed to the teeth and all capable of >20G loads in combat maneuvering (no human pilots to blackout) plus capable of hyper cruise beyond mach 1without afterburners. And imagine 10 air combat squadrons coming from all points of the compass. That's 40 planes. And THAT is pretty terrifying if you are an enemy fighter pilot. It will get there sooner than later. The computers are almost a reality, atomic level memory is nearly a reality.

    November 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Reply
    • William

      Iran hacked into our most advanced drone and landed it and stole it. We need to find a better way to communicate with our drones and assets.

      November 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Reply
      • sebastian finn

        Stop reading comic books.

        November 6, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • Rick from LA

      The UAV IRan took was a remotely operated air vehicle. I believe the intent is to give the UAV variant of this bird autonomous AI's. Think Tomohawk guidance plus the ability to engage air threats and return to base without pilot input.

      November 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Reply
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  10. Scott

    This figher is perfect example of too much complexity – too many opportunities for something to fail

    October 24, 2012 at 11:32 am | Reply
  11. ChicagoRich

    We need to get the show on the road with this. Other countries that manufacture weapons have been fielding new fighter designs in recent years that will put them ever closer to our current front line fighters. Without air superiority our military losses would be horrendous in most future battle scenarios. Unfortunately it is virtually inconceivable that these will not see use in battle in the future, so they had better be the best we can field.

    October 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  12. Jason Simmons

    Larry,

    In the recent tests, where the F-35C hooked 5 out of 8 wires, the redesigned tailhook did not feature the re-designed dampener, as that redesign has not yet been completed, I understand. The redesigned tailhook is only partway through it's "fix". Given it's already managing 5 out of 8 with only a partially rectified design, IS good news.

    Plus this test was to demonstrate the redesigned tailhook's ability to catch a SINGLE wire. It was not a demonstration of it's ability to land on-board a carrier, where there are what, 6 or so possible arrestor wires that an aircraft can catch?

    Saying it's not good enough, demonstrates a bit of impatience I think. I wonder how many times a Super Hornet might miss a single wire in testing, yet few complain about it's shipboard ability...

    October 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • Rick from LA

      4 wires

      November 6, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply
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  14. Ryan's Voucher Plan Will Include A "Legalize Euthanasia" Clause And A Free Gun

    The seniors will need to commit suicide when their health care dollars run out. But hey!!!!!!....Check out that new war machine!!!! Pathetic.

    October 17, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • michaelw777

      I disagree. We need both. I do think we need to ask and expect our allies to step up to the plate more in protecting themselves. And Social Security does need to be on a stable financial footing...forever. But we cannnot allow our military advantage to deteriorate. For the sake of any troops we field anywhere in the world, we must be the best, and have the best. Our current political climate tends to run to extremes, but we must find the balance between the two. The problems the F-35 have had while higher than usual for leading-edge capability, is not unusual compared to past efforts. And while current Chinese efforts lag behind us – they're just getting started – but anyone with half an eye open can see the future, and we'd best be ready for it.

      November 3, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
      • cja

        Realistically, the fastest growing group of americans is "poor people". and they can't pay much in the way of taxes. As the US becomes more and more like India its tax base will shrink and with it the size of the military. The best plan is to simply stop doing stuff to make "everyone" hate us. Then you don't need most of the military.

        This WILL happen, the middle class is vanishing and the rich will refuse to pay taxes. There will be no money for new airplanes or ships on 25 years.

        November 4, 2012 at 1:51 am |
      • Why dont we

        just update are already wide variety of aircraft. Seems in the end updating the F-16 fleet for the 21st century will be just as expensive as building new fighter aircraft. If we are so strapped for cash, how can we expect to continue with the F-35 or F-22 projects?

        November 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

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