After hundreds of billions of dollars and almost ten years past due, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter hits another hurdle.
In a report the Government Accountability Office claims the aircraft that is being dubbed the “backbone” of the US military’s future air arsenal may be costing tax payers billions of dollars more in unplanned fixes delaying the already late debut.
The program which will cost the American people approximately $1 trillion to develop, purchase and maintain until the year 2050, has been mismanaged to the point of being called a financial catastrophe.
Lockheed Martin, the company behind the F-35, has to replace almost every jet in the current inventory in which the US has agreed to purchase 2,500 of the fighter planes.
According to the GAO report, the money will go to adding roughly 10 million lines of on-board code to the jet's JSF software.
“It’s as complicated as anything on earth,” said agency expert Michael Sullivan to Wired.com.
“Software providing essential JSF capability has grown in size and complexity, and is taking longer to complete than expected,” the GAO warned.
But that isn’t the only issue to plague the already cursed aircraft.
The mechanical and safety problems persist and JSF program Chief Adm. David Venlet has shied away from setting a firm schedule for the F-35.
The Lockheed Martin creation has been in the works since the early 1990’s and was expected to be in the air by 2010, but officials are now anticipating the official launch to be 2018.
GAO believes the JSF software upgrade and production costs of $400 billion will go up by the end of the year. Since 2001 the production cost of the craft has gone up at least five times and in the past the Pentagon simply increased the budget of the program rather than sparring the taxpayers a few billion.
But for some that is no longer an option.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley addressed the Congress about the ballooning cost of the fighter jet saying, “to the extent that there continue to be cost growth or challenges…we’ll have to take down the number of aircraft.”
Air Combat Command agreed with Donley and added, “we cannot simply buy our way out of our problems or shortfalls as we have been able to do in the past,” the command said.