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A U.S. House proposal to cut a relatively small but significant amount of funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would delay the stealthy jet's fielding up to a year, the Pentagon has told Congress.
The House-passed version of the fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill approves almost $4.9 billion for the F-35's continued development but denies $152 million that the Bush Administration requested to buy long-lead items for five jets. The House version of the FY '06 defense appropriations bill takes a similar approach.
Lawmakers said the request for long-lead items was premature because the program will not know until early FY '08 whether efforts to cut JSF's weight will actually result in the F-35 meeting its performance goals. But the Defense Department countered that thousands of parts built for the first test jet have come within 1 percent of their predicted weight, demonstrating the ability of F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin to "translate an engineering design into a finished product at the expected weight."
DOD said the $152 million cut would slow planned increases in production, delaying the Navy's F-35 initial operational capability (IOC) by a year, from early 2013 to early 2014. The Air Force IOC would slip six months, from early 2013 to late 2013. The Marine Corps IOC would be pushed back six months, from early 2012 to late 2012.