Pentagon’s $1.5 Trillion Jet Punches Back
Policy + Politics

Pentagon’s $1.5 Trillion Jet Punches Back


Why can’t government contractors who are paid big bucks for big projects like the Obamacare website do the job right?

The F-35 fighter jet, which is expected to cost the Pentagon some $1.5 trillion over 55 years, has been ridiculed for a laundry list of problems. It has difficulties making some of the maneuvers required in a dogfight. It’s been grounded multiple times for engine troubles. It runs hot, making it difficult for the planes to operate in warm environments.

Related: 5 Weapons That Congress Won't Let Die

Yesterday, however, the Lockheed Martin jet finally passed an important milestone. Flying 25,000 feet over Edwards Air Force Base in California, an F-35 successfully destroy a target on the ground. A bomb dropped from the plane destroyed a tank marking the first time a pilot was able to hit the mark from the plane’s cockpit.

Unless this was a lucky shot, America’s next generation fighter jet may finally able to fight.


“This guided weapons delivery test of a GBU-12 marks the first time the F-35 truly became a weapon system," said Marine Corps Major Richard Rusnok, the pilot who flew the plane. "It represents another step forward in development of this vital program."

Now that the plane’s weapons systems have been tested successfully, the Marines plan to start using the plane in combat in 2015, DOD officials said.

Related: 12 Weapons That Changed Everything

Not all of the plane's problems are solved. Frank Kendall, DOD's weapons chief, said he still had concerns about the F-35's computer system, its software and its reliability.

Maybe when the tech surge team at has that site up and running they can swing over to Lockheed Martin.

A successful weapons test means that DOD is finally starting to get return on the nearly $400 billion it has already invested in the program. Whether the plane's other problems can be resolved remains to be seen.