If Congress has its way, the Pentagon will have to restore the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program—but the new program director says that will cost airplanes. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Davis told Bloomberg News that cutting aircraft—perhaps 100—is the only way to pay for a second engine. Although House and Senate authorizers shuffled money around in the 2007 defense bill to save the General Electric engine, there are some lawmakers—chiefly Sen. John McCain—who just might view cutting aircraft as the right answer. McCain does not think the JSF program is on solid footing. Davis disagrees, saying he had never seen an aircraft in such advanced development at this stage of its program.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.