The budget axe is beginning to fall for the Joint Strike Fighter with two House defense authorization subcommittees proposing limited funding for F-35, unless Lockheed Martin makes good on its promises.
The Pentagon requested about $11.4 billion for Navy, USMC and USAF F-35 development and procurement activities in Fiscal 2011. That includes 43 aircraft (42 in the base budget, and 1 in the war spending bill as a replacement).
But, the full amount will be released on two key conditions. One congressional staffer calls this "incentives," but notes that the requirements aren't "anything Lockheed hasn't already promised."
Only 30 of the single-engine stealthy Joint Strike Fighters will be purchased unless the pace of improvements to testing and manufacturing are improved. "Only 3 of the 14 test aircraft planned for the F-35 program have been delivered. Only 10% of the planned test flights last year were flown," according to a HASC statement.
Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s executive vice president of F-35 program integration, said earlier this month that just fewer than 200 sorties have been done to date. 395 more are required by year’s end.
This would bring the program to a total of roughly 580 test sorties, which is just more than 10% out of the total of 5,000 for the entire flight test program. Another 6,000 flight test sorties are expected in operational testing.
If the company makes good on these types of promises, the funds will flow.
The lawmakers also throw down the gauntlet over the F136 standoff with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who threatened to recommend a presidential veto if any funding is provided for the GE/Rolls F136 alternate engine. Lawmakers set aside $485 million for it. Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, says: "We will continue to engage in the process to ensure they understand why this is not in the interest of our military and the taxpayers."But, here's the catch: 25% of the request will be withheld unless the Pentagon certifies that all funds for the propulsion system are obligated.
The full committee and its Senate counterparts have yet to act.