The top aviators from the US Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and the head of the F-35 Joint Program office all testified before Congress on Thursday and came to a clear consensus — the US has "a war winner" on its hands with the F-35.
The F-35 program, first announced in 2001, has become the most expensive weapons project in history, with President Donald Trump calling the program "out of control" in December.
The program has delivered just 200 or so aircraft years behind schedule and billions over budget, but the top aviators in the US military said that the Joint Strike Fighter would come down in price and provide revolutionary capabilities to the US and their partners.
"We believe we are on track to continue reducing the price of the F-35 such that in [fiscal year 2019], with an engine including all fees, the F-35A model will cost between $80 million and $85 million," Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, program executive officer, F-35 joint program office told Congress.
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. | US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw
Bogdan also said the program had begun a block-buying strategy for foreign nations to bring down the price per aircraft.
The Marine Corps and Navy has said their biggest problem with the F-35 is not having enough. Marine Corps Lt. General Jon Davis said the Marines need F-35s to replace their aging fleets of F-18s and Harrier jump jets, which average 22 years.
But the F-35 isn't just another fighter jet — it's a flying all-spectrum sensor node that can fight without being seen and elevate the performance of entire squadrons by sharing data on the battle space.
From left to right: The Air Force F-35A, the Marine Corps F-35B, and the Navy F-35C. | Lockheed Martin
"The aircraft's stealth characteristics, long-range combat identification and ability to penetrate threat envelopes while fusing multiple information sources into a coherent picture will transform the joint coalition view of the battlefield," said Navy Rear Adm. DeWolfe "Chip" Miller III.
"I'm becoming increasingly convinced that we have a game-changer, a war winner on our hands," Davis said of the F-35. "We can't get into those airplanes fast enough."