House Lawmakers Call for More F-35s

A bipartisan group of 70 lawmakers is seeking to increase the F-35 production rate in Fiscal 2017. “We believe it is essential for Congress to provide the funding necessary to continue increasing F-35 production at a rate sufficient to meet future threats and to reach full rate production of at least 120 US aircraft per year as quickly as possible,” the House members wrote in an Oct. 4 letter to the leading members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. In its unfunded priorities list, the Air Force sought $691 million to buy the five F-35As that were deferred in the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2017 budget request. The House’s spending bill would provide funding for an additional 11 F-35s for the services, including the service-requested five F-35As. But the Senate’s version, which hasn’t passed, would only provide the Air Force with an additional $100 million for advance procurement for the F-35As while providing funding for the Navy and Marine Corps to buy four more F-35s. In the letter, the lawmakers suggested HAC-D Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Ranking Member Rep. Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) push for the additional $100 million for the Air Force so it can increase its ramp rate in Fiscal 2018 and the funding for the additional 11 aircraft while negotiating with the Senate on a joint bill. Increasing the production rate, the lawmakers argued, will reduce future aircraft unit costs. They also suggested restoring follow on-modernization funds cut by the Senate’s version. At the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference in September, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said he sees maintaining the buy rate of the F-35s as high as possible as the most important part of the program so the service benefits from the capacity.