The Pentagon has bet the farm on an airplane championed as a “super fighter” that can do everything for everybody. The F-35 is intended to replace and improve upon several current—and aging—aircraft types with widely different missions. To achieve this, the airplane must meet the mission requirements of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, all in one basic airplane. The F-35 is marketed as a cost-effective, powerful, multirole fighter airplane, significantly better than anything potential adversaries could build in the next two decades. But it’s turned out to be none of those things.
Officially begun in 2001, with roots extending back to the late 1980s, the F-35 program is nearly a decade behind schedule, and has failed to meet many of its original design requirements. It’s also become the most expensive defense program in world history, estimated to cost around $1.5 trillion before the fighter is phased out in 2070.
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