While a bit rah-rah in tone, this NRO article on the F-35 Lightning II still provides a decent snapshot of where the program is right now. Aviation Week crib notes:
- It's still overweight, especially the STOVL version. However, production managers are still "very optimistic" weight and performance targets will be met.
- "Very optimistic" is often industry lingo for "cost overruns", and this appears to be no exception. Conventional wisdom is currently betting on the price (both per-unit and whole program) to go up.
- The UK is making a lot of noise right now about withdrawing from the whole thing. They want access to what is in effect the source code for the aircraft, and DoD and State are dragging their heels about that. If the Brits actually pull out, the cost will go up a lot. Negotiations are ongoing.
- That said, this will most likely be a spectacularly capable weapon system. Fanboys may (will) bemoan the loss of generation IV combat aircraft like the F-16, A-10, or AV8B, but keep in mind those designs will be forty years old when the F-35 enters service. Aircraft, engine, and systems design has come a very long way in those 40 years, and it will show.
People weren't sure Lockheed would be able to pull off the lift fan design, but they did. I have a feeling they'll overcome these obstacles as well, putting us (at the end) two full generations ahead of any potential competitor. Take that, Mr. Mujji!