By: Ethan Rosenkranz
According to Bloomberg News, the Pentagon’s upcoming budget request, expected to be released next month, will propose cutting the military’s overall F-35 purchase by eight aircraft—bringing the total number of F-35s requested in FY 2015 to thirty-four—down from the forty-two aircraft that the Pentagon had originally expected to purchase.
Even more interesting to us, though, is that according to Bloomberg, the Pentagon will only request two F-35Cs (the Navy’s carrier-launched variant) in FY 2015. Last week, we noted that the Navy had asked for a three-year pause in acquisition of the F-35C, but an early press report indicated that the Pentagon had blocked this proposal.
Part of the Navy’s motivation in seeking a pause in procurement might be that the service may not want or need such an expensive stealthy fighter. According to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, “We appear to be reaching the limits of how much a platform’s inherent stealth can affordably get it close enough to survey or attack adversaries.”
Another possible explanation for why the Navy requested a pause in procurement might be due to the acquisition practice known as “concurrency development,” in which the military purchases highly sophisticated weapon systems before they have been fully developed, evaluated, or tested.
For the F-35, this means that Pentagon weapons testers are constantly identifying problems with the aircraft which require costly retrofits and redesigns. The Pentagon’s top acquisition official, Frank Kendall, hasn’t minced words when discussing the F-35’s acquisition history: “Putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice….It should not have been done….Now we’re paying the price for being wrong.”
Well, apparently, the Navy isn’t interested in paying the price for being wrong and would instead prefer to spend constrained resources on aircraft that cost a fraction of the price and are fully operational today.
Please join the Project On Government Oversight in urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to support the Navy’s reasonable request to put a hold on the purchase of more F-35Cs.