The F-35 program will be cut by 45 aircraft over the next 10 years as the Air Force struggles with its spending priorities, according to an Air Force document.
A prematurely posted copy of the US Air Force's fiscal year 2017 budget request was pulled down from the service's website today but not before defense analysts and journalists were able to download the document and find a number of surprises. While it had been previously announced by the Department of Defense that five fewer F-35A fighters would be purchased in 2017, the plan outlined in the 2017 Air Force budget would cut even more F-35s from purchase plans over the next 10 years, deferring the purchase of 45 planes until later.
In a statement introducing the budget plans, Air Force officials wrote, "The Air Force is facing a modernization bow wave in critical nuclear and space programs over the next ten years that, under current funding levels, we simply cannot afford." A recent assessment of the Air Force's nuclear forces reinforced calls for a major investment in modernization of systems, some of which have been in place with few modifications since the 1970s and 1980s.
The F-35 program, one of the Air Force's most expensive procurements, has been cut back as a result as the Air Force instead proposes a budget that "restores some capacity in the short-term, funds readiness to executable levels, and makes additional investments in nuclear, space, cyber, command and control (C2), and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities," according to the introductory statement.