Feb 17, 2014
Pentagon Said to Seek 34 of Lockheed’s F-35 Jets Instead of 42
The fiscal 2015 request, to be released on March 4, will include funds to buy 26 of the Air Force’s model, six of the Marine Corps’ short-takeoff and vertical-landing jets and two of the Navy’s version for aircraft carriers.
Even with the decrease from past plans, the defense budget reflects pledges by officials to do all they could to insulate the costliest U.S. weapons program from federal budget cuts.
While the budget request will be down from the 42 fighters the Pentagon had projected it would buy next year, it’s an increase from the 29 the Defense Department requested and Congress approved for the current fiscal year.
The projected price tag of $391.2 billion for an eventual fleet of 2,443 F-35s is a 68 percent increase from the estimate in 2001. The number of aircraft is 409 fewer than called for in the original program. The Pentagon’s chief tester has repeatedly questioned the plane’s progress, finding last month that the fighter wasn’t sufficiently reliable in training flights last year.
The five-year defense budget plan through 2019 also calls for 55 F-35s for the U.S. military in fiscal 2016, seven fewer than planned, and adds a projection for 96 of the jets in 2019. The figures don’t include purchases by other nations that are partners for the F-35. Among them are the U.K., Norway, Australia, Italy and Canada.