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Air Force to trim its order of F-35s

December 22, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Air Force chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper has confirmed that the service is planning to buy fewer F-35 joint strike fighters than originally expected.
The Air Force's top general told a group of defense writers last week that he expect to see an overall decrease in the joint strike fighter requirement.

No firm decisions have been made however on the number of F-35s to be acquired.

Jumper explained that because the F-35 will be a more capable airplane than those it will replace, bothe the F-16 and the A-10, not as many new fighters will be required.

"People are still looking at the requirements ... and what the number of F-35s will be," said Doug Karas, an Air Force spokesman.

When the F-35 contract was awarded in October 2001, the Pentagon said it expected the Air Force to buy 1,763 F-35s and the Navy and Marines 1,089 over several decades. The Navy and Marines later cut their plans to 680.

Some defense consultants claim that the Air Force, in preparing its 2006 budget, plans on cutting the F-35 JSF purchases by about a third.

Senior officials in the Defense Department could very well oppose this out of fear that cuts could drive up the planes' cost.

Lockheed Martin offcials say however that the procurement and production numbers have always beens expected to fluctuate and that they believe they can prevent major cost increases.

Lockheed and defense officials also seem to remain confident that foreign government purchases of the F-35 will more than make up for U.S. cutbacks. In addition to the United States and Britain, seven other countries are involved in developing the F-35.

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