[Corrects inaccuracies reported in previous story, headlined: "US Navy mulls slashing F-35C orders next year"]
Lockheed Martin confirms the US Navy has submitted a request to fully fund three F-35C carrier variant aircraft that were eliminated last year by Congress.
The so-called above threshhold reprogramming request "is now with Congress for final approval", Lockheed says. The same request has already been approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Last year, Congress eliminated funds for three of the four planned F-35C variants in the fourth lot of low rate initial production (LRIP-4).
The USN, however, is seeking to restore the funding to allow the USN's initial operational test and evaluation phase to proceed as planned.
The Department of Defense plans to award a contract for 32 LRIP-4 to Lockheed in January, according to an acquisition notice posted yesterday. The sole-source award includes 13 F-35As for the US Air Force, 15 F-35Bs for the US Marine Corps and one F-35Cs -- with an option for another three F-35Cs -- for the USN.
The USN plans to buy a total of 640 F-35Cs and short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing F-35Bs over the life of the programme.
Last year, the F-35 Joint Programme Office announced delaying the initial operational capability (IOC) date for the F-35C to 2015.
The USN is currently evaluating its future tactical aircraft inventory needs as the service faces an acknowledged shortfall of at least 69 fighters in 2017.
Options range from accelerating F-35C procurement to extending production of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.