September 18, 2016

"Less than two months after declaring the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ready for combat, the Air Force on Friday announced that it was temporarily grounding 15 of the jets after it discovered that insulation was 'peeling and crumbling' inside the fuel tanks."

Washington Post: The setback is the latest for the $400 billion system, the most expensive in the history of the Pentagon. by Christian Davenport

'The problem comes as the program, which for years faced billions of dollars in cost overruns and significant schedule delays, had begun to make strides. Last year, the Marine Corps had declared its variant ready for combat. In July, the Air Force gave a similar blessing to its variant.

'Along with the manufacturer, Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, Pentagon officials had declared that the long troubled program, derided as the plane that ate the Pentagon, had turned a corner. In testimony before Congress earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program’s executive director, said the fighter is at a pivot point as production is about to ramp up. He said while 45 aircraft were manufactured in 2015, that number should grow to more than 100 in 2018 and up to 145 by 2020.

'Even though the jet was declared combat-ready, Air Force officials warned this summer that it remains in development and that they could continue to find problems. The fact that the Pentagon committed to the aircraft before it was fully tested has been one of the chief criticisms of the program — a violation of procurement mantra: Fly before you buy.

'“While nearing completion, the F-35 is still in development, and challenges are to be expected,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement. “The F-35 program has a proven track record of solving issues as they arise, and we’re confident we’ll continue to do so.”'

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