F-35 Ready For Prime Time?

The F-35 is likely to have more growing pains, and as a result, Congress may slow the program down, according to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), head of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. Murtha on Wednesday told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., “I’m for the F-35; I’m for a big buy in the F-35, but I’m not necessarily for buying it this year, if it’s not ready.” He said the F-35 may be heading for a stall-out for technical reasons—he didn’t say what they might be—and if so, Congress may apply the brakes. “We haven’t decided it’s quite as bad” as the F-22’s avionics problems near the end of its development, “but it looks like it’s going in that direction.” He added that, even though the F-35 is a priority for the Administration, “we may not fund it at the level they would like.” Murtha said that the issue of fighter procurement is a “major problem” for Congress to deal with, since money is tight but threats are proliferating. However, he feels that adequate inventories of fighters will help prevent wars.