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Weekly Spotlight: F-35 Goes Rogue

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The Marine Corps took to Facebook earlier this week to ask the public for help tracking down a missing F-35 fighter jet after a pilot was forced to eject from the craft during a training flight. The pilot was safe and accounted for, but the jet was on autopilot, adrift in the skies, and proved very difficult to find

The F-35 was eventually found — crashed, about 60 miles from where the pilot had ejected. And though the jokes write themselves, here’s a sobering truth to ground us: That crashed F-35 jet cost us taxpayers about $135.8 million

It’s unclear what mishap caused the pilot to eject — and whether the ejection was even voluntary. The whole spectacle has brought more scrutiny to the boondoggle that is the F-35, which is already notorious for its flaws, setbacks, and being the most expensive weapons program in history. We’re hoping the renewed spotlight on this struggling weapons program will make the Pentagon think more critically about the F-35's many issues

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“The fact that the Pentagon developed an AI program to navigate its own policies should be a stark wake-up call for lawmakers who throw more money at the department than it even asks for nearly every year.”

Julia Gledhill, Analyst, Center for Defense Information, in The Intercept



“It makes sense to have folks with industry-specific experience in these kinds of leadership roles, but it also raises some serious questions from the public if those decision-makers are making decisions with the public interest in mind.”

Liz Hempowicz, Vice President of Policy and Governmental Affairs, on Washington Post

“Every F-35 built until now is nothing more than a very expensive prototype.”

Dan Grazier, Senior Defense Policy Fellow, on CNN

“[Senator Tommy Turberville (R-AL)] being a member of the Armed Services Committee and investing in defense contractors is ethically preposterous and a textbook example of a conflict of interest.”

Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, Senior Government Affairs Manager, in Raw Story

“The fully integrated nature of all F-35 systems makes cybersecurity more essential than for any other aircraft.”

Dan Grazier, Senior Defense Policy Fellow, in Daily Mail

“It would be highly ironic if Congress continued its impeachment inquiry to try and hold the president accountable during a shutdown, considering it was Congress that failed to do its number one responsibility and fund the government.”

Tim Stretton, Director of the Congressional Oversight Initiative, in The Messenger

“There are thousands of penetration points, weaknesses in the entire [F-35] enterprise that a hacker could access the software.”

Dan Grazier, Senior Defense Policy Fellow, in Daily Mail


“There’s a lot of things that individual members of Congress and Congress broadly as an institution can do that will directly impact, say, for example, the share price of the individual company or the overall well-being of an industry or sector.”

Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, Senior Government Affairs Manager, in Source New Mexico

“The F-35B has an autoeject function. ... I’m curious to know if it ejected him involuntarily.”

Dan Grazier, Senior Defense Policy Fellow, on NBC News

“Was [the auto-eject] function triggered for some reason, and punched the pilot out? ... There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Dan Grazier, Senior Defense Policy Fellow, in Associated Press