The USAF will still be getting 48 A models, therefore the cut is either the B or the C variant.
The Pentagon has decided to buy just 78 F-35s from Lockheed Martin in the latest budget request, instead of 84 aircraft that was projected a year ago.
The Air Force will still be getting 48 A models, therefore the cut is either the B or the C variant.
According to Bloomberg, the cutback from the 84 fighters projected a year ago for fiscal 2020 is a setback for Lockheed Martin, the No. 1 defense contractor, even as interest in the plane from foreign buyers increases.
It’s likely to raise questions from skeptical lawmakers about why the Defense Department, which has spent years saying it needs the more advanced F-35, cut back the planned purchases even as the Air Force is seeking money to buy eight new, upgraded F-15 jets from rival Boeing. They would be the first F-15s the Pentagon bought since 2001.
Among the likely questions is whether Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing official, played any part in the decision to buy fewer planes from Lockheed and more from Chicago-based Boeing. However, Shanahan has recused himself from participation in all Boeing matters.
In fact while Shanahan has pledged to stay out of Boeing decisions, he isn’t hesitant to praise the F-35 built by its rival. In an interview last Thursday with Bloomberg, he sought to make clear he’s a fan. “What’s really important for people to always take away is I’ve found the aircraft — the F-35 as a product, its capability and performance — to be eye-watering. It is high, high-performing — no ambiguity — no ifs, ands or buts.”
However if recent history is a guide, Congress will increase the F-35 request in the final version of the fiscal 2020 budget. Despite a history of performance setbacks, the F-35 has drawn praise for its flying qualities as the Air Force, the Marine Corps and now the Navy have declared that the aircraft has an initial combat capability. It also retains strong support in Congress as a job creator. Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed boasts that it uses 1,500 suppliers in 46 states and more internationally.
For the current year, Congress appropriated $9.34 billion for 93 F-35s, 16 more than requested. For fiscal 2018, lawmakers added 20 F-35s to the 70 requested.
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe (Released)
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com