US lawmakers come out in favor of more F-35s

Lockheed’s fifth-generation F-35 and Boeing’s fourth-generation F-15X are in a tight dogfight for budget dollars, and a bipartisan group of 99 House lawmakers has called on colleagues to add 24 F-35s over President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget request, for a total of 102.

The Joint Strike Fighter Caucus, on Monday, sent a letter to lead House authorizers and defense appropriators, following an Air Force budget request that proposed buying F-15s after a 20-year hiatus while holding the F-35A buy-rate flat.

Caucus leaders sent the letter arguing their proposed production hike would reduce overall F-35 costs and ensure air dominance as, “adversaries continue to advance surface-to-air missile systems and develop their own stealth fighters.”

“In fact, as global threats continue to rise, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Fiscal Year 2020 budget request, which includes funding for 78 F-35s (48 F-35As, 10 F-35Bs and 20 F-35Cs) – 15 less than Congress appropriated in Fiscal Year 2019 – leaves the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with a capability gap that 4th Generation, or legacy, aircraft cannot fulfill,” the letter argues.

“To reach the minimum 50% ratio of 5th Generation and 4th Generation fighters in the timeframe required to meet the threat, the U.S. must acquire F-35s in much larger quantities,” they wrote, adding later: “F-35 modernization is crucial for 4th generation aircraft systems, which are increasingly vulnerable and reliant on 5th generation production.”