If the Pentagon doesnt get its Joint Strike Fighter just right, the U.S. military is screwed. Which is why its a such serious, serious problem this stealthy, all-purpose jet has had such a troubling performance record, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Things have gone so wrong that Gates just announced hes sacking the head of the star-crossed, nearly $350 billion program and is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in performance fees to JSF-maker Lockheed Martin. When things go wrong, people will be held accountable, Gates told reporters. The Air Force, the Marines, and the Navy are all counting on the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to serve as its aircraft of the future, replacing everything from the A-10 to the F-16 to the F/A-18. Its meant to knock out the most advanced missile sites, spot the most elusive terrorists, and win dogfights with the most sophisticated jets from Russia or China all at a fraction of the price of the much-ballyhooed F-22 Raptor. Gates calls it the backbone of American air superiority. Without the promise of the JSF, Gates wouldve never convinced Congress to stop production of the Raptor, the Air Forces most advanced dogfighter. By the time the program ends, there are supposed to be more than 2,400 of the planes in the American inventory, flying off of aircraft carriers, taking off from a conventional runway, or zipping straight up into the sky. Gates Sacks Stealth Jet Chief, Blasts ‘Troubling Record’ of Crucial Plane | Danger Room | Wired.com This aircraft that the DoD has placed all it's eggs in one basket over in terms of costs and performance is perhaps the biggest money pit ever to come to pass in DoD purchasing. The F-35 in terms of performace is average when compared to current 4th generation jets and it's appeal was that it would be a common platform for all services and save money in terms of parts and maintenance. There are several options that the DoD has at it's disposal in order to meet the needs of the warfighter than FAR exceed the performace of this waste of money and does so at a lower cost and better performance. Many people wonder how the Govt. gets itself into debt and then turns around and tells departments like NASA that funding a moon program will be too costly. Then you have to look no further than the F-35.