Seventy lawmakers asked House appropriators to fund 11 additional F-35 Lightning IIs in a letter on October 4 as “events around the globe continue to demonstrate the urgent need for” the Joint Strike Fighter.
The letter, penned by the House Joint Strike Fighter Caucus, argues that at this “critical juncture” in the F-35 program Congress should fund more of the planes to keep down production costs and address current and future threats around the world.
The caucus asked to fund five Air Force F-35As, four carrier-based F-35Cs for the Navy, and two F-35Bs that can take off vertically for the Marine Corps.
“Increasing the production rate is the single most important factor in reducing future aircraft unit costs,” the letter read.
“Additionally, significantly increasing production is critical to fielding F-35s in the numbers needed to meet the expected threats in the mid-2020s.”
The letter implores 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.”
This effort mirrors a Senate push to add $100 million to the budget to increase the Air Force’s advanced procurement, the Washington Examiner notes.
The Joint Strike Fighter program, which has been plagued by setbacks and cost overruns since its inception in the 90s, has recently cleared important hurdles as it reached initial operating capacity with the US Marine Corps and Air Force.
The Air Force hopes that a smaller fleet of more capable F-35s can relieve the legacy aircraft that comprise the bulk of its fleet — many of which were introduced in the 1970s — as tensions mount with Russia in Syria and China in the South China Sea.