There are 56 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters being assembled at Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth. But because only 20 per cent of the testing for the most advanced fighter-bomber in US history is completed, each will probably have to get million-dollar-or-more fixes later.
The F-35 is already the most costly US weapons program underway at about $385 billion. But that figure may go higher with overrun of the per-plane contract price for the 56 craft being assembled - along with the future multimillion-dollar fixes likely to be required for them - and the 15 F-35s completed but not yet delivered to the military services.
The plane is being built with the most sophisticated stealth technology, but initial flight tests have turned up hot spots and cracks associated with metal and composites used on most new aircraft.
The development of the software controlling the F-35's major warfighting functions, the most complex ever planned for an airplane, has been delayed so that the last block will not be introduced to the aircraft until at least June 2015.
Earlier this month, Vice Adm. David J. Venlet, executive officer for the F-35 program, said in an interview with the online service AOL that he recommended slowing down current production lines to reduce the replacement costs that will be necessary in aircraft produced before testing is completed.
Production had already been slowed twice.
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