Draft bill foresees US getting 10 F-35s less than planned for 2025

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The House Armed Services Committee is gearing up to reinvest $1 billion to address production issues with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. According to a draft of a new bill, the funding will come from reducing the number of F-35 jets produced for the Pentagon next year. Instead of the planned 68 F-35s, only 58 will be delivered. 

Photo credit: USAF

This draft legislation also calls for withholding delivery of 10 more aircraft until the Defense Secretary presents detailed plans to congressional defense committees. These plans need to outline corrective actions and acquisition strategies aimed at improving research, development, testing, evaluation, and manufacturing processes, as well as addressing various deficiencies within the F-35 program. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers [R-AL] provided this language in the bill, and the full panel is set to review it on May 22. 

Senior committee officials, who briefed the press about the forthcoming bill, emphasized lawmakers’ concerns regarding gaps in the F-35’s post-production capabilities.

Only 29% of the F-35s are completely ready

“Over the last few years, members have grown increasingly disenchanted with the F-35 program,” explained a senior committee official from the majority party. “This year, we are facing challenges with receiving Lockheed Martin aircraft as they come off the line. Our members are eager to address this issue.” 

Rep. Matt Gaetz [R-FL], another committee member, recently criticized the F-35 during a committee hearing. He highlighted that Air Force officials report only 29 percent of the planes are fully mission-ready. 

The chairman’s strategy, according to most staff, is to reduce F-35 deliveries from 68 aircraft to 58. This cut is expected to free up $1 billion, which can then be reinvested in other areas, including research and development, to ensure Lockheed’s aircraft are mission-ready as soon as they come off the production line.

Photo credit: Il Manifesto

“If you have a plane that isn’t up to our standards, then what’s the point?” said the majority of the staff. “At that stage, they just become a paperweight. We needed to ensure the planes were ready for action as soon as they rolled off the production line.” 

Money for settings

The $1 billion allocation will cover various improvements, including upgrades to the F-35’s radar and software systems. By setting aside the delivery of an additional 10 planes, officials aimed to ensure the Pentagon would act upon the panel’s recommendations with a concrete plan. 

The official also pointed out that Congress will soon need to confront the rising maintenance costs of the F-35. 

“But this year, members were keen to keep the F-35 production line going,” the staff noted. A senior committee minority official affirmed the lawmakers’ continued support for the program. “Members do not want this program to fail,” said the minority representative. “When someone asked, ‘Can we end this program?’ the answer was a resounding no. We need this program to succeed.”


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