Proposed House spending bill would add more F-35s

A proposed defense spending bill the House of Representatives released Tuesday would fund eight more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in fiscal 2025 than the military originally planned.

The Pentagon’s budget request earlier this year included money to buy 68 F-35s — 42 F-35As for the Air Force, and 13 F-35Bs and 13 F-35Cs for the Navy and Marine Corps.

But the House Appropriations defense subcommittee’s draft spending bill would add two more F-35As to the Air Force’s purchase, and six more F-35Cs, for a total of 76 jets. The number of F-35Bs the Marine Corps would buy would remain unchanged under this appropriations bill.

The plan to increase F-35 purchases in the proposed defense appropriations bill would differ from the House’s proposed National Defense Authorization Act, which would cut the number of F-35 purchases by as much as 20.

The NDAA, which the House Armed Services Committee approved last month, would first cut the Pentagon’s F-35 purchases down to 58, and then prevent the military from accepting delivery of another 10 jets until it certifies several problems with the jet are fixed.

HASC lawmakers are growing impatient with the F-35 program and manufacturer Lockheed Martin over problems such as delays in its Technology Refresh 3 upgrades, which have halted deliveries of the newest jets for nearly a year. HASC staffers told reporters in May that the roughly $1 billion saved by cutting the first 10 F-35s would be reinvested to ensure the jets work properly when they roll out of Lockheed’s factory.

The defense appropriations bill would also provide funding for 15 KC-46 Pegasus aircraft, eight MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters, and 18 F-15EX Eagle II fighters, as the Air Force requested in March. The Air Force had originally expected to buy 48 F-35As and 24 F-15EXs in 2025.

And the appropriations bill would provide the Air Force $120 million to buy two more HH-60W Jolly Green II combat rescue helicopters in 2025. The Air Force has sought to curtail its HH-60W buy and cap it at 75, down from 113, arguing that the helicopters would not be survivable in a future war against an advanced adversary such as China.

Lawmakers would also provide the Air Force $400 million to speed up the delivery of Boeing’s E-7 aircraft, known in other countries as the Wedgetail, which is meant to replace the aging E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS.

The appropriations bill also proposes $1.9 billion in procurement funds for the B-21 Raider stealth bomber, and $2.7 billion in research, development, test and evaluation funds to continue the bomber’s development. Another $2.1 billion in RDT&E funds would go to developing and modernizing the F-35.

The Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance future fighter program would get $3.3 billion for development, in line with the service’s request, and nearly $493 million in RDT&E funds for its Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile.

The Air Force would also receive $3.4 billion to continue developing the LGM-35A Sentinel nuclear missile, which is meant to replace the decades-old Minuteman III.

Author: Stephen Losey
Source: DefenseNews

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