19:36 GMT26 January 2021
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    With the new Pentagon chief already ordering the review of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, RT's Viktor Astafyev looks into what went wrong with the most expensive weapon in history.

    Earlier this week, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent two memorandums for Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work to review the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to "determine opportunities to significantly reduce the cost of the F-35 program while meeting requirements," according to RT's Viktor Astafyev.

    Mattis also directed Work to compare the capabilities and costs of the stealthy F-35 fighter jet to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, to determine what improvements can be made "to provide a competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative."

    A trillion in the sky

    During his election campaign, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly drew American voters' attention to the F-35 program's bloated cost overruns. CNN called the aircraft "the most expensive weapons system in history, while Forbes magazine reported that the F-35 program's price tag stands at about 1.5 trillion dollars.

    Time magazine in turn calculated that if thus sum was  divided evenly between everyone in the United Sates, then each American would get about 4,500 dollars. Time also noted that American pop star Beyonce, who gets about four million dollars for one gig, would have to perform a concert every night for 1,027 years to be able to pay for a 1.5-trillion-dollar contract.

    Price of the moment

    That rate of spending irked Trump, who during his election campaign promised to cut government spending for the F-35 program.

    In December 2016, he tweeted that the F-35 costs are "out of control," prompting the value of the US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which is engaged in the development of the F-35, to plummet to 3.5 billion dollars, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

    Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson had to give Trump her "personal commitment" to cut the cost of the F-35 fighter jet.

    "I've heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35.  I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively," CNN quoted her as saying.

    Explosion engine

    In September 2016, Defense News reported that an F-35A had caught fire during a drill at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

    "The pilot had to egress the aircraft during engine start due to a fire from the aft section of the aircraft," Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff was quoted by Defense News as saying.

    The ten F-35 fighters were grounded following the fire incident, according to media reports.

    Afterwards, the insulation of the F-35's fuel tanks' cooling system was found to be crumbling in 57 F-35 jets, 15 of which had already been put into service.

    Earlier, National Interest defense editor Dave Majumdar mentioned the F-35 in the magazine's review of the "worst-of-the-worst" US fighter jets.

    "The F-35 is a case of massive over-ambition to develop one base airframe that can be adapted to replace half-dozen specialized jets. The result is an expensive jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none," Majumdar said.

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    program, cost, fighter jet, development, F-35, Donald Trump, US
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