F-35 Stealth Fighter Cost Increases by Billions: Report

Panetta: F-35 'Absolutely Critical'

Over the past few years the Defense Department has restructured the program so that fewer planes are produced earlier in testing -- in hopes of containing the cost of expensive retrofits -- but the GAO report says the Pentagon is "still investing billions of dollars on hundreds of aircraft while flight testing has years to go."

Regardless of the GAO's findings, while agonizing over the JSF program's many issues, several defense officials have also said that the military is stuck with the next generation fighters, along with the F-35's tactical compliment the F-22 Raptor.

"It is the future of tactical air for the Department of Defense for all three services it supports," Kendall said of the F-35 in February.

Just a month before that, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the program was "absolutely critical" to America's future military force.

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