Top Pentagon leaders discussed both the problems and promise of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet program during a segment on 60 Minutes Sunday night.
The piece, teased by artwork showing an F-35 in flight with a trail of dollar bills spewing in its wake, highlighted the military's efforts to rein in the growing cost of "the most expensive weapons system ever" -- estimated at $400 billion for 2,400 planes.
It rehashed the host of technical problems that have plagued the plane's development and summed up its problems by describing the Fort Worth-made product as seven years behind schedule and $160 billion over budget.
CBS national security correspondent David Martin was filmed walking through Lockheed's west Fort Worth factory talking with Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, who took over as the military's F-35 program manager last year. Bogdan said Lockheed now only receives a profit on its production if each plane moves to its next station in the plant on time and meets the prescribed quality.
"Long gone is the time when we're going to pay for mistake after mistake after mistake," he said.
Lockheed Martin officials declined to be interviewed for the segment. The company only issued a statement saying it recognizes that the program has had challenges, and that it's working with its customers to address those challenges.
Despite continued problems with the plane -- the segment highlighted tires that are wearing out faster than expected -- a series of Pentagon leaders appeared to praise the F-35 as a quantum leap in technology, a flying computer that will give the U.S. military a decided advantage in any future aerial conflict.
Asked whether the program is now under control, the Pentagon acquisition chief, Frank Kendall, said, "Yes, it is."
And Bogdan said, "I don't see any scenario where we are walking back away from this program. We're going to buy a lot of these airplanes."
-- Steve Kaskovich