Purchase Delays Possible: A US Air Force F-35 prepares to take off June 20 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (US Air Force)
WASHINGTON — Sequestration could cause the US Air Force to delay purchasing “four to five” F-35A joint strike fighters in fiscal 2014, according to top Air Force acquisition officials.
The Marine Corps and Navy could each cut one of its F-35B and F-35C variants, as well, if the automatic cuts are not overturned by Congress.
“A potential FY14 sequestration impact for the F-35A low-rate initial production, relative to the request, could be the loss of four to five aircraft from the requested amount of 19,” William LaPlante, principal deputy assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition, and Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller, deputy chief of staff, strategic plans and programs, testified in a joint written statement to the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.
“It could also require a reduction up to $110M from the F-35A development program, forcing delays to dedicated development test and evaluation flights through 2014, which will cripple the planned initiation of important follow-on development activities,” the two wrote.
Last year, Air Force officials warned they could lose three to five F-35As from planned purchases due to sequestration. But those cuts were avoided when the Pentagon was able to cut a good deal for low-rate initial production lots six and seven with contractor Lockheed Martin.
“We were able to negotiate a very good price in block 7 and buy back potential losses,” LaPlante told members of Congress. “We won’t have that opportunity. We will lose between four and five airplanes in 2014.”
LaPlante also said that the program’s schedule lost one to two months as a result of sequestration-related furloughs over the summer, and that the Pentagon was close to shutting down the F-35 production lines during this month’s government shutdown.
Sequestration would also cause potential cuts to fiscal 2014 aircraft orders, including one F-35B jump-jet variant for the Marines and the F-35C carrier variant for the Navy, as well as up to four EA-18G Growler electronic attack jets, according to testimony from top naval leaders.