First of the $160 Million F-35s

Launched a month after 9/11, the $400 billion F-35 fighter program--the Pentagon's costliest weapons system ever--crept toward operational status on Nov. 20. That's when the Marines began replacing the aging F-18 warplanes flown by Fighter Squadron 121 with a brand-new F-35B, the short-takeoff-and-landing variant of the aircraft purchased by the Corps. (The Air Force and Navy are buying simpler versions.) The squadron, based in Yuma, Ariz., begins with just a single Lightning II and two pilots able to fly it. Monthly deliveries will continue until it has 16 planes. The Lockheed F-35's teething problems have been so bad--the Pentagon's top weapons...

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