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Friday, November 26, 2010

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Jeremiah Gertler
Specialist in Military Aviation

The largest procurement program in the Department of Defense (DOD), the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), also called the Lightning II, is a new aircraft being procured in different versions for the United States Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Current DOD plans call for acquiring a total of 2,456 JSFs. Hundreds of additional F-35s are expected to be purchased by several U.S. allies, eight of which are cost-sharing partners in the program.

The F-35 promises significant advances in military capability. Like many high-technology programs before it, reaching that capability has put the program above its original budget and behind the planned schedule.

The administration’s proposed FY2011 defense budget requested about $6.8 billion in procurement funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. This would fund the procurement of 23 F-35As for the Air Force, 13 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps, and seven F-35Cs for the Navy.

The administration’s proposed FY2011 defense budget also proposed terminating the F-35 alternate engine program, which is intended to develop the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 engine as an alternative to the Pratt and Whitney F135 engine that currently powers the F-35. The F-35 alternate engine program has emerged as a major item of debate on the FY2011 defense budget. 

FY2010 defense authorization act:
The conference report on the FY2010 defense authorization act authorizes funding for procuring a total of 30 F-35s in FY2010, as requested. The report authorizes $430 million in Air Force and Navy research and development funding for continued development of the F136 alternate engine, and $130 million in Air Force advance procurement funding to begin F136 procurement. Section 131 of the act requires a report on the procurement of “4.5”-generation fighters that is to include, among other things, “a discussion regarding the availability and feasibility of procuring F-35 aircraft to proportionally and concurrently recapitalize the Air National Guard during fiscal years 2015 through fiscal year 2025.” Section 217 requires future DOD budgets to provide separate line items for the F-35B and F-35C within the Navy aircraft procurement account and the Navy research and development account. Section 244 requires, for the period 2010-2015, an annual Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the status of the F-35 program. 

FY2010 DOD appropriations bill:
The explanatory statement on the final version of H.R. 3326 includes $6,840.5 million for 30 F-35s in 2010. Additionally, the statement contains $430 million in Navy and Air Force research and development funding for continued development of the F136 alternate engine, and $35 million in Air Force procurement funding designated for the alternate engine program. 

Latest Developments:
On September 16, 2010, the Senate Appropriations Committee funded 32 F-35s, 10 fewer than the Administration requested.

The report on the House-passed version of the FY2011 defense authorization bill included language limiting procurement to 30 F-35s pending certification that the F-35 had achieved certain testing parameters. The Senate Armed Services Committee-reported version of the bill required similar, but different achievements, but did not withhold funding
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Date of Report: November 10, 2010
Number of Pages: 54
Order Number: RL30563
Price: $29.95

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