Vermonters who think the Vermont Air National Guard's future is tied to us all getting warm and fuzzy about basing F-35 fighter jets in South Burlington should take a closer look at the project's flight plan through congressional airspace.
Last night, PBS "NewsHour" devoted nearly 10 minutes of the show to the growing congressional dogfight over what they're calling the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program. Apparently, the F-35 is facing serious cost overruns — from $59 million to $112 million per plane — production delays, and other technical problems. Senate Democrat Claire McCaskill, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, referred to the project as "too big to fail" just as taxpayer "push money across the table." Hmm, when have we heard THAT phrase before?
Things aren't looking especially rosy on the technical side of things, either. In February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the F-35's program manager. According to NewsHour's Kwame Holman who reported the story, a General Accounting Office report on the F-35s noted that "hot exhaust may damage runways and flight decks on ships, and heat buildup inside the aircraft may impede its ability to operate in hot environments." Great news if we go to war with Iceland or Norway. But for use in our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or future wars in Iran, Yemen or Pakistan? Not so much.
Still, BTV wouldn't have to worry about icing on the runway anymore...