TROUBLE FOR JOINT FIGHTER

Bad news for an already battered Joint Strike Fighter program: the New York Times is starting to throw punches, too.cdp_loc_cv_008.jpgThe Joint Strike Fighter is [supposed] to be a jet fighter for all people and all places. For the Air Force, it will land on runways. A version for the Navy will be able to land on aircraft carriers. And the one for the Marines will land vertically to drop into global hot spots... Eight nations [are] joining with the United States to build it.But now soaring ambitions are confronting hard realities. What was started five years ago as a streamlined way to do business appears to be going the way of most other Pentagon weapon programs: over budget, behind schedule and with big cuts in the number to be produced...In 2002, the Pentagon estimated the entire program would cost $192.5 billion. In the most recent Selected Acquisition Report, an internal semiannual report by the Pentagon on the costs of major weapon systems, that number had risen to $256.6 billion...On paper, all the money is being poured into building a craft that would be the Chevrolet of the skies - affordable, dependable and ready to be sold in vast numbers. It is to replace the workhorse F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet, perhaps the most successful in aviation history...[But] Tough design issues relating to the [replacement's] excessive weight have caused the program to fall two years behind schedule. Some of the international partners are becoming restless and have hinted they may not ultimately buy the plane. And a report last month, from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the program was so complicated as to be "unexecutable."

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