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Navy’s F-35s still highest priority despite cuts: Pentegon

Sept. 5, 2013, Washington, D.C. - The Pentagon's chief arms buyer on Wednesday said he did not expect the U.S. Navy to significantly change its plans to buy F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin, despite mounting pressure on the U.S. military budget.


September 5, 2013
By Reuters

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for
acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Reuters Aerospace and
Defense Summit that the $392 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was the
U.S. military's highest priority conventional warfare program.

 

"I
don't see any indication that the Navy is going to change its plans in
any fundamental way," Kendall told the summit, highlighting the need to
seek out more advanced equipment.

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The
Navy and other branches of the military have been going through tough
budget reviews to map out their options if lawmakers fail to reverse
mandatory budget cuts and they are forced to implement an additional 10
percent budget cut in fiscal 2015.

 

One
of the options under discussion has been a two-year pause in orders for
the F-35C carrier variant, a move that could increase the cost of the
remaining aircraft to be bought by the Marine Corps and the Air Force,
according to four sources familiar with the issue.

 

Kendall
declined comment on the fiscal 2015 budget deliberations, but said he
did not expect major changes in the Navy's plans for the F-35 program.

 

Kendall's strong endorsement of the added capabilities of the F-35 marked a setback for Boeing, which is offering the Navy upgrades of its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter in the hopes that it can sell more those planes.

 

"The
F/A-18 is a great airplane, but it's a fourth generation fighter. The
F-15 is a great airplane, the F-16 is a good airplane, but they're
fourth generational fighters, and you get a quantum improvement in
capability out of the F-35," Kendall said. "It's why we're buying them."

 

He
said the Navy needed the added capabilities that the F-35 offered,
noting that other countries were developing their own radar-evading
fighter planes, advanced electronic warfare capabilities and other
advanced weapons that threatened the U.S. military's ability to "control
the air."

 

"That's a serious
problem and it applies to a carrier strike group just as much as it does
to an aircraft air wing or a marine amphibious group," he said.

 

Lockheed
is building three variants of the F-35 for the U.S. military and the
eight partner countries that are helping fund its development: Great
Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, Italy, Turkey, Denmark and the
Netherlands. Israel and Japan have also placed orders for the new jet.