Lockheed Martin F-35C prototype

  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed warns that a cut could have serious impact

The major projects under way for new combat aircraft for the U.S. Air Force are facing some serious issues on many fronts. The tanker bidding process is still anything but final after years of fighting between bidders and people in Washington. The F-35 program is also facing some significant issues (one variant, dubbed the F-35B STOVL, has been delayed due to issues with subcomponent failures).

The major issue for the program continues to be delays and cost overruns. 
Defense News reports that the U.S. Senate is seeking to cut ten of the aircraft from the 2011 defense spending bill for the fourth delivery of the low-rate initial production program (LRIP-4) for the aircraft. The number for the delivery was initially set at 42 aircraft, but the Senate wants that number cut to 32.

Lockheed's Tom Burbage, the executive VP for the F-35 program has stated that the cut could have a "very serious" impact on the program. A cut on the delivery will drive up the cost for all nations involved in the purchase of aircraft.
Defense News reports that the cut in the order comes after intense negotiations between Lockheed and the Pentagon over the price of the aircraft during the key LRIP-4 buy. The LRIP-4 purchase is a key indicator to determine if Lockheed will be able to deliver the aircraft on budget.

Burbage said that at this point the reduction in the number of aircraft for the order isn’t final. He stated, "If the final decision is to support that position, it has a very serious impact on the program. We're trying to bring it online at a ramp rate that allows us to hit high production rates, we have partner countries that are part of that buy, and when you make large adjustments in quantities of airplanes it has an impact on everybody."

Lockheed has maintained that it could deliver the aircraft at about 20% under the Pentagon's estimate of about $76 million per aircraft.

The DOD has already stated that the F-35 program could ultimately cost $382 billion

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