The White House wants to reduce its annual order commitment for F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin.  

The administration of President Joe Biden is reportedly seeking to reduce the annual acquisition target from 83 to fewer than 70 aircraft, starting in 2025.

Reuters first reported the news on 14 February, citing anonymous sources within the Biden administration.

The proposal, which represents an 18% reduction to Washington’s per annum F-35 buy, was prompted by previously agreed upon constraints to defence spending growth passed by Congress in the 2023 budget.

F-35 factory

Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed completes final assembly of F-35s in Fort Worth, Texas. The company recently completed the 1,000th example of the advanced stealth fighter

However, the plan is far from becoming reality.

Budget proposals from the executive branch do not carry the force of law, and legislators often alter the spending plan submitted by the Pentagon to suit the strategic and industrial priorities of lawmakers.

Congress has yet to pass the 2024 defence budget, let alone start debating a 2025 spending plan.

The 2024 budget is now five months behind schedule, with lawmakers using a series of short-term extensions known as continuing resolutions to keep government operations funded.

The Pentagon is expected to release its final 2025 budget proposal in March, at which time congressional committees typically begin public and private deliberations on the matter.

As the largest single buyer of F-35s, any procurement reduction by Washington would certainly be a financial blow to Lockheed.

The fifth-generation fighter programme is a major contributor to the company’s aeronautics business, which generated $67.5 billion in sales and $2.8 billion in profits in 2023.

Lockheed’s F-35 deliveries and revenue both slipped last year, as the company has struggled to certificate the latest configuration of the advanced stealth fighter.

The company continued to assemble F-35s at full capacity, moving toward a long-term target of producing 156 jets per year.

Lockheed delivered just 98 F-35s in 2023, compared to 141 in 2022.

Overseas orders for the fifth-generation fighter remain strong, with the Czech Republic officially joining the programme in January and Greece receiving export approval from arms regulators in Washington.

The company completed assembly of the 1,000th example of single-engined fighter in January.