The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Built

The Pentagon's $400 billion F-35 is running into turbulence just as deeper budget cuts loom

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Dan Winters

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If sequestration happens March 1, F-35 officials have made it clear they will be forced to slow production and delay flight tests. Both steps will make each plane that is ultimately bought more expensive.

But thanks to $4.8 billion in Pentagon contracts for 31 planes pushed out the door barely 100 hours before the original Jan. 2 sequestration deadline, much of the program will continue on autopilot.

"The F-35 program has built up a good buffer by getting the most recent lot of aircraft awarded in time," says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget expert at the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "That means Lockheed and all the subcontractors have a backlog of work that won't be affected by sequestration, so they can continue working as planned for the time being."

Apparently the F-35 may end up being pretty stealthy after all.

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