Lockheed F-35 programme may have to be restructured under sequestration

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The entire Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme may have to be restructured if the Pentagon budget undergoes the full 10 year effects of sequestration.

Under the Congressional sequestration budgetary maneuver, the US Department of Defense's coffers would be automatically cut across the board by 10% every year for 10 years. That is on top of the $487 billion that has already been cut from the spending plan.

If the full sequestration were to take effect, "we're going to have to look completely at the [F-35] programme," US Air Force chief of staff Gen Mark Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee on 12 February. "It's going to be impossible to modernize."

 f-35 lockheed martin

 Lockheed Martin

The consequences operationally would mean that the US Air Force would not be able to operate as effectively in contested airspace as it had planned. "Our kick in the door capability would be impacted," Welsh says.

For the US Navy, the consequences of the full sequestration are as dire. Adm Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, told the Congress that if the USN had to suffer the effects of nine additional years of sequestration, the service would lose two carrier strike groups and a "proportional" number of amphibious strike groups.

The US Marine Corps may also have to "cancel major multi-year procurements such as the [Bell-Boeing] MV-22 and incur greater cost and program delay in future program buys," USMC commandant Gen James Amos says in his prepared testimony.

Sequestration is scheduled to come into effect on 1 March. Thus far, Congress and the executive branch have been in deadlock with no resolution in sight.