Angel DelCueto | Lockheed Martin
F-35 assembly at Fort Worth, Tex.

Budget Cuts Expected to Reduce F-35 Output

Feb. 19, 2024
An upcoming defense spending reduction is forecast to reduce the number of Joint Strike Fighter jets produced in 2025.

The Biden Administration is expected to propose cutting the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets in its 2025 defense budget, which will be introduced in mid-March. The current plan calls for Lockheed Martin to produce 83 of the aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy during 2025, though that total could drop to fewer than 70 if the Defense Department’s spending on the F-35 program is cut by $1.6 billion, as reported.

The proposed budget was reported by Reuters, citing unnamed sources familiar with the budget negotiations between the White House and the Dept. of Defense.

DoD previously estimated a 2025 budget of $880 billion in 2025 and a total national defense budget of $929 billion. A two-year budget deal agreed to by the Administration and Congress last summer set the 2025 defense budget at 1% above the 2024 level ($886 billion), meaning $895 billion.

That is the amount that the Administration is expected to request next month, which will require significant cuts in forecast requirements for numerous current programs.

The actual number of F-35s that may be produced under the proposed budget may be difficult to identify, as the cost of the fighter jets is being affected by the Technology Refresh-3 effort now underway to advance the F-35’s hardware and software for greater data processing power and speed, as well as to expand memory capabilities. That new technology is still in the testing phase and is not expected to be available until the second half of 2024.

Current delivery costs range from $82.5 million for the F-35A, to $109 million for the F-35B, to $102.1 million for the F-35C.

The F-35 is a series of single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft deployed for ground attack and combat, and available in three variants. It is by far the largest and most expensive U.S. defense program, with Lockheed subject to steady scrutiny for cost overruns and the readiness of aircraft for service. As well as supplying fighter aircraft to the three branches, the F-35 program involves the defense forces of 17 allied nations.

The number of F-35s purchased by foreign buyers will not be affected by changes in the Defense Dept.’s requirements. The proposed budget cuts would affect other defense programs too, such as warships now in construction, the homeland missile defense system, and other advanced weapons and munitions programs.

Lockheed Martin has not commented on proposed program cuts in the FY2025 budget.

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