In "Vanity Fair", Adam Ciralsky investigates the F-35 aircraft, or Joint Strike Fighter, that was meant to streamline and update the military’s fleet of planes. When Ciralsky first saw the jet he said he “didn’t know whether to genuflect or spit.”
So what went wrong? In 2001, Lockheed Martin won a valuable government contract worth an estimated $233 billion to create the plane. Instead of testing the plane’s various aspects before production, Lockheed Martin decided to use a practice called concurrency–producing and testing the plane at the same time.
As of now, the planes can’t drop bombs and have only 2% of the necessary coding to be used in combat. During testing, pilots have ended up abandoning their futuristic helmets mid-flight due to the confusion they cause. The planes also can’t fly in inclement weather, something a $60,000 Cessna can do.
Another basic question: why hasn’t the government stepped in to keep Lockheed Martin on track? Ciralsky believes it’s due to an expensive and brilliantly conceived manipulation of our political system.
The political process that keeps the Joint Strike Fighter airborne has never stalled. The program was designed to spread money so far and so wide—at last count, among some 1,400 separate subcontractors, strategically dispersed among key congressional districts—that no matter how many cost overruns, blown deadlines, or serious design flaws, it would be immune to termination. It was, as bureaucrats say, “politically engineered.