F-35 production is holding steady with plans to churn out between 36 and 38 airframes this year, said Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan. The main challenges for the F-35 strike fighter program are completing airframe modifications and software upgrades on the 58-strong operational fleet, he added. “We simply cannot afford to have to do things twice on this program,” Bogdan said in a March 4 Air Force release. “We don’t have the time, and we don’t have the money. We know what our commitments are, and we’re going to do everything we can to deliver them,” he added. The software enhancements currently in testing will link the F-35’s sensors to other aircraft and information to give the fighter its signature edge. Over the next two years, F-35 production is scheduled to increase to 43 airframes, “then up into the mid-60s and then three years from now, over a hundred,” said Bodgan.
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.