Pentagon considers cancelling F-35 program, leaked documents suggest

Leaked documents from a Pentagon budget review suggest that the agency is tired of its costly F-35 fighter jets, and has thoughts about canceling the $391.2 billion program that has already expanded into 10 foreign countries.

Pentagon officials held a briefing on Wednesday in
which officials mapped out ways to manage the $500 billion in
automated budget cuts required over the next decade. A slideshow
laid out a number of suggestions and exposed the Pentagon’s
frustration with its F-35 jets, which are designed and
manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. based out of Bethesda, Md.
 The agency also suggested scrapping plans for a new
stealthy, long-range bomber, attendees of the briefing told

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to reporters on Wednesday and
indicated that the Pentagon might have to decide between a
“much smaller force” and a decade-long “holiday”
from modernizing weapons systems and technology. 

Pentagon breifing slides indicated that a decision to maintain a
larger military “could result in the cancellation of the $392
billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 program and a new stealthy,
long-range bomber,”
Reuters reports. 

When officials familiar with the budget review leaked the news
about the F-35s, the agency tried to downplay its alleged

The F-35 program is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system.
A fleet of 2,443 aircraft has an estimated price tag of $391.2
billion, which is up 68 percent from the projected costs measured
in 2001. Earlier this year, Air Force Lieutenant General
Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program manager, condemned
the manufacturer for “trying to squeeze every nickel” out
of the Department of Defense.

Although the warplane is the most expensive combat aircraft in
history, its quality is lagging. In February, the US military
grounded an entire fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters because of
a crack found on a turbine blade on one of the jets, marking the
fourth time that a fleet was grounded because of manufacturing
problems. In April, Bogdan told a Senate committee that he
the planes could withstand a sophisticated cyberattack. 

But before the sequestration took effect this year, the Pentagon
secured several contracts with Lockheed Martin to ensure the
continued production and maintenance of the costly F-35s. This
week, the Defense Department struck another deal with the company
to produce 71 more jet fighters, claiming the costs per aircraft
have been reduced by about 4 percent — an insignificant reduction
when compared to the 68 percent price increase that has occurred
since 2001.

After news broke of the Pentagon’s prospect to cancel the
program, officials tried to control the damage of such an
alarming statement that runs counter to the claims they publicly

“We have gone to great lengths to stress that this review
identified, through a rigorous process of strategic modeling,
possible decisions we might face, under scenarios we may or may
not face in the future,”
Pentagon Spokesman George Little
told Reuters in an email when asked about the slides. “Any
suggestion that we’re now moving away from key modernization
programs as a result of yesterday’s discussion of the outcomes of
the review would be incorrect.”

An unnamed defense official familiar with the briefing told
Reuters that the leaked budget document indicated possibilities
for a worst-case scenario. He admitted that the Pentagon
considered scrapping the program, but said it was unlikely, since
“canceling the program would be detrimental to our national

Regardless of the Pentagon’s intent, Congress is responsible for
authorizing Department of Defense spending, and has often forced
the agency to make costly and unnecessary weapons purchases.

Last year, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that the
US has no need for new tanks. But even though senior Army
officials have repeatedly stated that there is no need to spend
half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds on new 70-ton Abrams
tanks, lawmakers from both parties have pushed
the Pentagon to accept the useless purchases.

Earlier this year, an investigation revealed
that lobbying efforts by Northrop Grumman have kept a costly
Global Hawk drone flying, despite the Pentagon’s attempt to end
the project. A defense authorization bill passed by Congress
requires the Air Force to keep flying its Block 30 Global Hawks
through at least 2014, which costs taxpayers $260 million per

The US spends more money on defense than any other nation, but
lawmakers from both parties often insist that the agency continue
to buy tanks and keep ships and planes it no longer needs.
Although the Pentagon has expressed its frustration with the
costly F-35 fighter jets, there is little the agency can do
without congressional support.

Republished from: RT