60 Minutes: F-35 Cost Overruns Total $163 Billion

Image: 60 Minutes: F-35 Cost Overruns Total $163 Billion

Monday, 17 Feb 2014 06:40 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The U.S. Defense Department has spent $163 billion more than anticipated on the F-35 stealth fighter, according to a CBS News "60 Minutes" segment broadcast Sunday night.

As planes roll off the Lockheed Martin assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas, problems are coming to light, including faulty valves installations, substandard tires, and lights that don't meet FAA standards.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's under secretary for defense acquisition since 2009, described the beginnings of the project as "acquisition malpractice" because the government began acquiring the jets before flight testing them – relying on computer modeling tests.

The project is running seven years late and, at $400 billion, is likely to cost double as much as the Apollo lunar landing program.

The Pentagon intends to buy 2,400 aircraft at $115 million per unit. At the earliest, the F-35 would enter service in 2015.

Kendall said program costs for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the priciest weapons system in U.S. history, are now under control, according to "60 Minutes."

The plane is seen as preserving U.S. air superiority in the decades to come. Without the F-35, the U.S. would be outgunned by the Russian T-50 and China's J-20 stealth fighter, Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh told "60 Minutes."

In 21st century dogfights, the plane that shoots first wins. The F-35 is designed to detect enemy aircraft at considerably longer distances than those airplane can detect it, Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle told "60 Minutes."

The plane is a flying computer. Each pilot will have a custom made helmet— costing half a million dollars— that gives them a 360 degree view outside of the plane.

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