A push is on in Congress to ramp up production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter now that both the Air Force and Marines have declared the stealth aircraft operational.
In an open letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, 70 members of the House are calling for an agreement with the Senate to pay for 11 new F-35s in the next budget while at the same time adding $100 million to help the Air Force fund “advance procurement” for 2018.
Currently, a House bill calls for 11 new jets while the Senate bill adds only 4, plus the $100 million.
The letter said that more F-35s are critical to meet the threats ahead in the next decade and get to the point of full production of 120 Joint Strike Fighters a year as soon as possible.
Perhaps just as important, the letter said that for the $1 trillion program, “Increasing the production rate is the single most important factor in reducing future aircraft unit costs.”
The co-chairs of the House Joint Fighter Caucus, Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas and Democratic Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, both have dogs in this hunt: The F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth and the plane’s engine is from United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney division in Middletown, Connecticut.