Finding the Right F-35 Buy Rate

The slow rate of F-35 buys hinders aviation readiness, the Marine Corps’ aviation boss and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula said Friday. Speaking at a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and AFA’s Mitchell Institute, Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the key to solving the Marine Corps’ readiness shortfalls is to retire the aged legacy aircraft “as soon as we can.” To do that, he needs to get new aircraft to replace them, he said. Praising the performance of the F-35Bs in the nation’s first operational Lightning II squadron, Davis said, “I can’t get them fast enough.” Deptula, who is dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, urged Congress to “get rid of this really adverse belief that we’re saving money by having to reduce buy quantity up front to be able to fit into an artificially and haphazardly driven top line that has nothing to do with need or capability.” Deptula noted the Air Force has its own readiness problems due to an aging force. “We need to increase F-35 production to get to the desired quantity sooner, not later,” he said. During the Farnborough Air Show, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said the recently completed Air Superiority 2030 analysis indicates “we have to keep the F-35 buy rate up.”