Four Missing F-35 Squadrons

The Air Force hasn’t backed off its goal of buying 1,763 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, but it will take longer to buy them, Carolyn Gleason, deputy USAF budget director, told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday. Gleason said the Air Force hopes to get to an annual buy of 60 F-35s a year by 2021, with the ramp as follows: 43 in Fiscal 2017, 44 in FY18, 48 in both FY19 and FY20, and 60 in FY21. The ramp represents a “deferral of 75 F-35s, … four squadrons’ worth,” between Fiscal 2017 and 2021, budget director Maj. Gen. James Martin said at the briefing. Gleason said USAF doesn’t anticipate a huge uptick in F-35 unit cost because of the slowdown, because foreign partners in the program will take up some of the slack with their own JSF orders. The deferral of 45 aircraft freed up $4.9 billion for other needs, of which about $3.4 billion will keep the Air Force in the A-10 business, Martin said. The maintainers that were to transfer from the A-10 to the F-35 will now be replaced by “contractor maintenance,” he explained. The JSF program director, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, will explain the effects of the Pentagon’s F-35 changes at a press conference on Wednesday.