The U.S. Dept. of Defense reportedly will cut its request for Lockheed Martin Corp.-built F-35 fighter jets in the upcoming FY 2020 federal budget. According to Bloomberg, citing Defense sources, the purchase of 84 aircraft projected a year ago in the lead-time planning for the program will be reduced to 78 jets when the budget is submitted to Congress in mid-Mach.
The F-35 is a series of three, Stealth-enabled single-engine aircraft designed for ground attack and combat, and deployed by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, and the defense forces of multiple allied nations. The program has been under steady scrutiny and criticism for the high cost of individual aircraft, and Lockheed and other contractors have made steady efforts to contain the costs for future deliveries.
Last month, the Pentagon granted a $90.3-million contract to Lockheed to identify and execute cost-reduction initiatives for the Joint-Strike Fighter jet program.
Current reported delivery costs for the program are $89.2 million/unit for the F-35A; $115.5 million/unit for the F-35B; and $107.7 million for the F-35C.
It is possible that the Pentagon’s purchase request will be increased by the Congress in its deliberation and approval of the budget. For example, in the current fiscal year Congress has authorized $9.34 billion to purchase 93 F-35s, which is 16 more than DoD requested. For FY 2018, Congress raised the total to 90 F-35s, up from 70 requested.
More than 350 of the aircraft have been built and deployed since 2006. In addition to the high production costs, the aircraft have incurred unexpectedly high maintenance and operating costs. In 2018 the Pentagon briefly stopped accepting most deliveries of new F-35 aircraft due to maintenance costs on more than 200 jets already in service with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy.