11 September 2006

F-35 Buy Cut.

The single biggest military program out there is the F-35 (Lightning II) joint strike fighter program, which seeks to replace the F-16 (Air Force), the F-18 (Navy) and the AV-8B (Marines), as well as other legacy aircraft, like the F-14 (Navy) which is no longer in service. Now, the cuts are starting again.

The total planned buy is about 2500 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marines combined for $276 billion. In addition, our allies plan to buy 770.

A proposed Air Force cut in the program would reduce the number of F-35s it buys in the 2008-2013 fiscal years by 72 planes.

This cut is on top of cuts proposed in their share of the F-35 program by the Navy and the Marines, in mid-August.

[T]he Navy-USMC plan would delay fielding the first Marine Corps F-35 squadron from 2010 to 2012, while also pushing acquisition of 35 additional Air Force and Navy Joint Strike Fighters beyond 2013, according to sources contacted by InsideDefense.com. Those sources said the move would free up nearly $1 billion across Navy and Marine Corps coffers.

The quote above does not completely make sense, but apparently, the Navy and Marines proposed that some of the cuts should come from the Air Force. The Air Force, meanwhile, is willing to cut even more of its planes if the program can stay on schedule.

What is clear is that everyone knows that the F-35 program has fat in it, and now, it is clear that there will be cuts. These cuts are small, and in theory, simply postpone the purchases. But, in military procurement, to delay often means to cut permanently, because if you don't need it right now, maybe you don't need it at all. Also, by the time you get to the end of the purchase period, a new program may have come along to fund instead.

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