A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter plane completes a flyover of the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Zumwalt in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland on October 17, 2016. (Photo: Andy Wolfe/U.S. Navy/flickr/cc)

Peace Activists, 220+ Groups Demand US Cancel F-35 Fighter Program

"To the people in the countries the F-35 is sold to and produced in, it's time we demand a reinvestment into life, not war," asserted Pink Floyd rocker and peace activist Roger Waters.

Prominent anti-war voices including Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, Abby Martin, and Roger Waters on Monday joined over 220 groups around the world in calling for the cancellation of Lockheed Martin's $1.7 trillion F-35 fighter plane program.

"The only people this project benefits are the executives at Lockheed Martin."

The women-led peace group CodePink is spearheading an international effort to urge President Joe Biden and members of the U.S. Congress to cancel the manufacturing and training of the F-35 fighter jet, which has been dogged by serious technical and operational problems since it first flew in 2006.

"I joined over 200 organizations from around the world in calling on the U.S. government to end the disastrous F-35 fighter jet program because as a global community we need to drastically change our priorities." Waters, co-founder of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd, said in a statement.

"To the people in the countries the F-35 is sold to and produced in, it's time we demand a reinvestment into life, not war," he added.

In a letter to Biden and U.S. lawmakers signed by nearly 230 groups, CodePink says that its cancellation demand is "based on the harm caused abroad, cost of the program to the taxpayer, inefficiencies and failures, the environmental impact of F-35s, and the effects training has on local communities."

Some of those communities are in Vermont, where--despite railing against the military-industrial complex during his two presidential runs--Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) supports the F-35 program.

"Currently, F-35 training in Vermont disrupts the lives of working-class people," the letter states. "The training is irregular and Vermonters go without warning of when these trainings will take place. The noise caused by the F-35 hits 115 decibels which especially hurts and injures infants and children, the elderly, and the disabled. The F-35 has 300 to 600 takeoffs and landings a month."

Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and a Vermont resident, said that "the global community is fed up with overpriced, underperforming weapon systems like the F-35. It's a complete waste of taxpayer dollars that causes harm abroad and here at home in Vermont."

"The only people this project benefits are the executives at Lockheed Martin," Cohen added. "Real security is knowing you can see a doctor when you're sick, not a boondoggle fighter jet that can't fly near thunderstorms."

That's just one of the many problems plaguing the F-35. The warplane's exorbitant cost has also raised critics eyebrows and ire. According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:

The F-35's price per unit, including ancillary costs like depot maintenance, ground support equipment, and spare parts is $110.3 million per F-35A, $135.8 million per F-35B, and $117.3 million per F-35C. Those totals do not include the nearly $1.3 trillion in life cycle costs to operate and sustain the aircraft over its 66-year life cycle, making it the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history.

Ashik Siddique, a research analyst for the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, recently noted that canceling all U.S. student loan debt would cost about $1.75 trillion, or about the same amount as the total cost of the F-35 program. Department of Education data shows that amount is also enough to eliminate all tuition at U.S. public colleges for more than 20 years.

According to the Children's Defense Fund, the projected cost of the program would also be enough to reduce child poverty in the United States by more than 60% for the next two decades.

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"The F-35 program is a microcosm of the military-industrial complex. Each year the U.S. government funnels massive amounts of money into the program while letting places in the U.S. go without clean water for months or years," said CodePink national co-director Danaka Katovich. "Sustaining this program for any longer will have detrimental effects on human life and the Earth."

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