Lawmakers elicited an admission from Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne that he “actually fought” to sustain an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter when he was head of acquisition in 2006. By 2007, the Navy wanted to drop it and the Air Force, though it still supported it, knew DOD would take the money “to provide harmony in the house,” so USAF redistributed that money itself, explained Wynne. USAF saw the DOD handwriting on the wall for 2008, so again left out alternate engine funding. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), House Appropriations defense panel chairman, said, “We think it’s in the best interest, long-range interest of the Air Force to have a competitive engine.” The Air Force is buying the lion’s share of JSFs—1,763 compared to 680 for the Navy and Marine Corps. The international buy right now brings the total to around 3,300, per Wynne, who said he believes the program “could grow at least by 50 percent.” Murtha agreed, saying, “That’s why we’re so interested in the alternative engine.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.