The US government has ordered separate reviews into the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) programme, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on 27 January.
The reviews are "to inform programmatic and budgetary decisions" on both projects, Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement, and have been ordered in the wake of comments made by President Donald Trump shortly before his inauguration on 20 January.
"This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary's recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities. This action is also consistent with the president's guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation's defence, and it aligns with the secretary's priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defence," the DoD said.
With regard to the F-35, Defence Secretary General James Mattis said that the DoD is to determine opportunities to significantly reduce costs while meeting requirements, while at the same time comparing the operational capabilities of the F-35C carrier variant of the fifth-generation combat aircraft with those of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet equipped with Advanced Hornet improvements developed by the company.
The US Navy (USN) is due to receive 260 F-35Cs in the coming years to augment the approximately 600 F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18Gs that it already fields on the decks of its aircraft carriers. As with the F-35A and F-35B variants developed for the US Air Force (USAF) and US Marine Corps respectively (plus international operations for both), the F-35C has suffered delays due to technical issues. Some of these have still to be ironed out, and the aircraft is now about a decade behind schedule with initial operating capability slated for between August 2018 and February 2019.
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