WASHINGTON (AP) -- The leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee are suggesting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rushed a decision to develop the Marine Corps version of the next generation strike fighter jet.
In a letter to Panetta, panel chairman Carl Levin and the top Republican, John McCain, questioned whether the F-35B built by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. had met the criteria to warrant an end to its probation. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had placed the aircraft on two-year probation because of testing problems.
Levin and McCain wrote on Monday that additional problems have arisen. They said Panetta's decision "appears at least premature."
Panetta announced his decision last month, but warned that the program was "not out of the woods yet." The F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program.