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F-35 fighter under fire again: is it time to 'cut our losses'?

A Pentagon spokesman argued the Department of Defense remains committed to the "premiere air system of choice."

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is blasting the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, lashing out at the expenses and saying he wants to "cut our losses."

"For what we have spent, in terms of what we've gotten back, it's just painful," said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), speaking to the Brookings Institution about the $478 billion program.

"I want to stop throwing money down that particular rat hole," he said.

A Government Accountability Office report last May concluded that the F-35 "is not meeting standards aimed at ensuring consistent, high-quality products, and fielded aircraft do not meet reliability goals."

Current Department of Defense plans call for acquiring a total of 2,456 F-35's, despite the jet's 873 unresolved design flaws.

The math is alarming: the current estimated cost per plane in the F-35 program is $78 million apiece.

Smith said he wants to make a new plan.

"So, what I'm going to do is figure out if we can get a mix of fighter attack aircraft that is the most cost-effective, bottom line," he said. "And I'm telling you right now that is finding something that doesn't make us have to rely on the F-35 for the next 35 years."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday said, "We're mindful of the complexities of this particular program."

But, he said, the department still strongly supports the F-35.

"The F-35 remains the premiere air system of choice for three of the armed forces, seven international partners, six foreign military sales customers," he said. "It routinely demonstrates high-end capabilities at the hands of our joint and international warfighters, and it's performing in combat operations from land and from the sea."

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