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The USAF making adjustments as the next-generation JSF program continues its struggles

The United States Air Force plans to purchase 1,763 next-generation F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter or JSF for short) aircraft over the next 20 years, but will only have the budget to afford 1,224 new "primary aircraft."

The Air Force's 
2010 Quadrennial Defense Review outlines several different proposed light-attack planes and vehicles, but doesn't outline spending plans for upcoming projects. As the Air Force waits for its manned planes -- mainly the F-35 Lightning II -- it will also rely on newer unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are designed to better avoid advanced missile defenses. 

The F-35 Lightning II program remains behind schedule and over budget, with the U.S. military confirming a one-year delay as Lockheed Martin is unable to keep up.  The U.S. Navy is now expecting to suffer a “fighter gap” as the branch retires its F/A-18 Hornet aircraft while the replacement F-35 Lighting II remain in the pipeline.

Due to the F-35 Lightning II delay, the USAF will have a wider variety of additional C-17s and 1,056 tankers and airlifters -- helping increase mobility of the Air Force -- though F-35 Lightning II interest will still be important.  The Air Force is phasing out C-17 development in favor of the smaller C-27 aircraft.

Continued confusion among the U.S. military and Lockheed has left some partner nations out of the loop. Australia plans to make an initial purchase of 14 F-35 Lightning II aircraft (but may purchase up to 100), though the $100 million price tag for each craft may increase in the future.  

The current F-35 Lightning II slowdown has led to increased pressure on Lockheed, especially as the company currently has $600M being withheld by the U.S. government.  Lockheed understands it is being held accountable at the moment, and spokespeople said things have been done to help increase productivity.





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