Heroes fly costly, controversial jets

(WTOL) - Concerns continue to mount over a fighter jet program that is designed to keep armed forces safe.

A corrosion issue with the F-35 recently brought production to a halt.

The F-35 is one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world.

From the design to the technology on board, the fifth-generation joint strike fighter is crafted to be a workhorse and a key combat tool for the US Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

"If I've got to go into harm's way, I think the F-35 is the platform I want to be in," said Rick Crecelius, deputy director of the Navy's F-35C Fleet Integration Office.

Development on the F-35 started in 1992. It has taken years to get the jet ready for the front lines.

From lift-off, the advanced jet has faced criticism from lawmakers for its flaws and price tag.

"The F-35 program's record of performance has been both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule and performance," said Republican senator John McCain of Arizona.

The jets are the most expensive U.S. military weapon ever built. The 2,500 planes have a price tag of $100 million each, costing the defense department $400 billion overall.

"It's unacceptable," said Senator McCain. "People have not been held responsible."

President Donald Trump took credit for helping to slash the price of the fighter jet in February, criticizing manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Eventually, a year was reached amounting to more than $700 million in savings.

"The F-35 is critical to our own air superiority in the future because of its stealth characteristics and some of its electronic capabilities," said Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Pilots say enhancements and technology in the cockpit are key to maintaining an advantage over other countries, justifying the cost.

"The latest technology always has a price tag. If you want to make sure your war fighters have the best possible equipment and the best possible advantage to go into harm's way and emerge victorious and come back home to mom and the kids in one piece, you've got to pay for the right equipment," said Deputy Director Crecelius. "The entire F-35 is aggressively looking at a way to drive the price down. I'm confident that the price will go down over a matter of time."

There is currently no plan for the armed forces to totally phase out the F-16 and F-18. Lawmakers hope to see the price for the F-35 continue to drop.

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