The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program would suffer casualties if sequestration returns in 2016, according to a Bloomberg News report that says the Pentagon would reduce expenditures on its most expensive weapons system.
The Defense Department’s plan to purchase 343 of the jets from Lockheed Martin would instead be downsized to 326 planes, at a savings of $1.7 billion, starting in fiscal 2016 when the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration are scheduled to resume.
While the report shows the Pentagon is willing to curtail its commitment to the $391.2 billion program, the spending cuts in terms of percentage would be small compared with other procurement projects. A $1 billion rescue helicopter initiative would lose $957 million and a $3 billion air-to-air missile program would be reduced to $2 billion, according to the report.
In the meantime – and in the absence of sequestration for the time being – the Pentagon is asking Congress for $8.3 billion for further testing and procurement of 34 F-35s. As of February, the Joint Strike Fighter was already $160 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule.
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