The F-35 fighter jet, a brand new warplane currently in production, was designed to save the military money by being able to do more for less. But, production costs have skyrocketed from $59 million to as much as $112 million per plane, a 60 percent to 90 percent increase in the last eight years.
Lawmakers are questioning the project's escalating costs, and some experts say the military underestimated the challenge of building such a complicated aircraft. However, executives in charge of the project say the end product of being able to use a single aircraft for all three branches of the military will be worth the cost.
Critics of the F-35 project claim the aircraft might not be able to perform key military functions once it is finished. They fear the extreme heat from its engines could damage flight decks and that the plane will never be able to fulfill its mission because it is too heavy to fight other aircraft in the air, but too fast, thin-skinned, and lightly armed to support troops on the ground.
"The idea was, you have one airplane, you buy a lot of them, you bring down the unit cost. If they can't do that, then the whole economic basis for this program is in peril." - Bill Sweetman, journalist and author
"The progress and performance of the F-35 over the past two years has not been what it should." - Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense
"There's lots of second-order and third-order beneficial effects of designing a common family of airplanes." - Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin
"I need somebody to do an estimate on the problems associated with this program. I need to know whose fault it is. This is too big to fail, this program." - Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
1. What are the three main branches of the military? How does each branch use airplanes?
2. How has military equipment changed over the years? How has warfare changed?
1. Why do you think this project is being scrutinized so much at this particular point in time? Why are lawmakers especially concerned about its cost?
2. What do you think are the most important things for the government to spend money on? Do you think it's important to spend on the military? Why/why not?
3. Do you think the F35 program should be continued or stopped? Why? Cite examples from the video in your argument.
Gates Announces Sweeping Changes, Cuts in Defense Budget :
Winners and Losers in Proposed Pentagon Budget:
Students Interested in the Military Cite Rising College Costs, Tough Economy :