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Monday, January 24, 2011

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. 

FY2011 defense authorization act:
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.

As passed, H.R. 6523, the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2011, did not include program-level detail, so no dollar amount or quantities are specified for the F-35 program.

Section 122 requires establishment of a system management plan and matrix for the F-35 program. Section 126 requires a feasibility study of integrating solid state laser systems into the F-35 (and other aircraft.) Section 802 designates the F-35 engine development and procurement program as a major subprogram. 

FY2010 DOD appropriations bill:
The Senate Appropriations Committee funded 32 F-35s, 10 fewer than the Administration requested. The House Appropriations Committee did not report out a separate defense appropriations bill. In lieu of a defense appropriations bill, Congress approved a resolution continuing FY2010 spending levels.

Date of Report: January 13, 2011
Number of Pages: 57
Order Number: RL30563
Price: $29.95

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