With a Defense Department review of Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet still ongoing, procurement for the Joint Strike Fighter remained steady in the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.
The Defense Department is requesting 70 F-35s this budget cycle, including 46 F-35As for the US Air Force, 20 F-35Bs for the US Marine Corps and four F-35Cs for the US Navy.
The USAF requested 46 F-35As, two more than number forecasted for fiscal year 2018 in the service’s five year defense plan released last year. The air force requested 43 F-35As in its FY17 budget, but Congress granted a total of 48 F-35As in the final FY17 budget.
The US Navy requested four F-35Cs and 20 F-35Bs for the US Marine Corps. The navy decreased its procurement of the carrier variant F-35 in an effort to balance readiness accounts and maintain initial operational capability for the carrier variant in 2018, navy officials say.
“Approximately two more years of system development and demonstration work remain to achieve an operational requirements document compliant Block III configured aircraft,” according to the US Navy’s FY18 budget documents.
The navy is tacking to complete flight tests in 2018 and should achieve initial operational capability between August 2018 and February 2019, according to a F-35 Joint Programme Office spokesman. In December, then JPO executive officer Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan told reporters flight testing would complete sometime between November 2017 and February 2018. If SDD stretches beyond February 2018, the JPO is prepared to take funding from the follow-on modernisation programe and allocate the money for SDD, Bogdan said.
Meanwhile, the navy’s budget did not reference any plans for its future fighter programme, the FA-XX. The service is waiting on the results of a strategic review, planned to release in August or September, before jumping into the Super Hornet replacement programme.