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This Air Force slide shows how the F-35 became a bottomless money pit from which there is no escape
Now we know why: Military briefing slides shown to then-president-elect Trump in December 2016 offer one of the most blunt Pentagon assessments of the notoriously unreliable aircraft in recent memory.
The briefing slides, obtained by The War Zone through the Freedom of Information Act, were shown to Trump by F-35 Joint Program Office chief U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan on Dec. 21, 2016, just over a week after the president-elect slammed program costs as "out of control" on Twitter.
While Bogdan's briefing asserts that the "big, complicated" F-35 program is "critical to U.S. and allied air dominance for the next 50 years," one slide offered a uniquely forthright assessment of the airframe: at 6.5 years behind schedule and $13.5 billion over budget, the F-35 program has found it "difficult to overcome a troubled past."
Translation: This thing sucks, but there's no going back now.
A slide from U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan's briefing on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program presented to president-elect Donald Trump on Dec. 21, 2016.(U.S. Air Force via The War Zone/Freedom Of Information Act)
Trump was, surprisingly, vindicated. The day after the Bogdan briefing, the president-elect attempted to put his much-hyped powers of negotiation to work with a tweet threatening to turn Pentagon attention to Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet if F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin couldn't get the cost of the airframe under control.
"We're just beginning – it's a dance," Trump told reporters after his briefings, per The War Zone. "It's a little bit of a dance. But we're going to get the costs down and we're going to get it done beautifully."
Things haven't improved much in the intervening years. The Pentagon's 2018 operational testing and evaluation assessment of the F-35 released in January detailed ongoing reliability issues that have aggressively truncated the airframe's service life well below official projections, with "no improving trend" among the number of aircraft available for training and combat missions.
Even worse: Just a few days after The War Zone published Bogdan's briefing slides, Bloomberg News reported that the F-35 program — already the most expensive weapons system in the history of warfare — had ballooned by another $22 billion in unexpected costs. And according to the Pentagon's Selected Acquisition Report cited by Bloomberg, it'll only get more expensive in the coming years as new upgrades are rolled out:
The increase to $428.4 billion from $406.2 billion in acquisition costs, about a 5.5 percent increase, isn't due to poor performance, delays or excessive costs for labor or materials, according to the Defense Department's latest Selected Acquisition Report sent to Congress last week and obtained by Bloomberg News.
Instead, the increase reflects for the first time the current cost estimates for a major set of upgrades planned in coming "Block 4" modifications, according to the report.
The F-35 program: Where the delivery schedules are made up and the budget doesn't matter.
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That's exactly what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on, according to budget documents — and it wants $13 million to make it a reality.
The Army is almost doubling its purchase of new bolt-action Precision Sniper Rifles as its primary anti-personnel sniper system of choice, according to budget documents.
Air Force officials are investigating the death of a man near the north gate of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Saturday night after the NHL Stadium Series hockey game between the Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings, military officials said Sunday.
‘That cavalier misdirection cannot stand’ — Washingtonians ask judge to reduce ‘extremely noisy’ Navy Growler flights
The Citizens of Ebey's Reserve (COER) is asking a federal judge to require the Navy to roll back the number of EA-18G Growler practice flights at Outlying Field Coupeville to pre-2019 levels until a lawsuit over the number of Growler flights is settled.
COER and private citizen Paula Spina filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Thursday.
According to the motion, since March 2019 the Navy has increased the number of Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and shifted most of its Growler operations to Outlying Field Coupeville, which is near the Reserve and the town of Coupeville.
"The result is a nearly fourfold increase in Growler flights in that area. Now the overflights subject residents in and near Coupeville to extreme noise for several hours of the day, day and night, many days of the week," said the court document.
A 26-year-old man died after he failed to surface from waters off Molokai while participating in a scuba diving tour over the weekend.
He has been identified as Duane Harold Parsley II and was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, according to the Maui Police Department.