F-35 Ramp-up Slowed?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has directed Pentagon planners to shift more than $2.8 billion originally earmarked to buy F-35 strike fighters through 2015 back into the aircraft’s development to keep the multibillion-dollar project from derailing. So reported Bloomberg news wire service Wednesday (via the Forth Worth Star-Telegram), citing an internal Pentagon budget document that Gates, who has made the F-35’s success a top priority, signed Dec. 23. This move, expected to be included in the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2011 budget request that will go to Congress in February, would reduce the number of F-35s purchased over that period by 122 airframes, or roughly one quarter, according to Bloomberg. This includes a 10-aircraft cut in Fiscal 2011. Meanwhile Reuters news service reported Wednesday that Lockheed Martin officials say the program is not in trouble and that such changes would merely shift aircraft purchases to later years.