The Pentagon envisioned the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as an affordable, state-of-the-art stealth jet serving three military branches and U.S. allies.
Instead, the Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) aircraft has been plagued by a costly redesign, bulkhead cracks, too much weight, and delays to essential software that have helped put it seven years behind schedule and 70 percent over its initial cost estimate. At almost $400 billion, it’s the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history.
It is also the defense project too big to kill. The F-35 funnels business to a global network of contractors that includes Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Kongsberg Gruppen ASA of Norway. It counts 1,300 suppliers in 45 states supporting 133,000 jobs — and more in nine other countries, according to Lockheed. The F-35 is an example of how large weapons programs can plow ahead amid questions about their strategic necessity and their failure to arrive on time and on budget.
“It’s got a lot of political protection,” said Winslow Wheeler, a director at the Project on Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information in Washington. “In that environment, very, very few members of Congress are willing to say this is an unaffordable dog and we need to get rid of it.”
Lockheed has a great business model. Undercut competitor during proposal, ‘accidentally’ go over budget to get more money, expand project goals as much as possible to justify further funding, and keep it going as long as you can until it is too big to fail, then just drag your ass in delivery.
…then use the product in your presentations to “prove the company’s history of innovation” which influences the success of the NEXT proposal.