The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee believes no more money should be spent on F-35 fighter jets.
“We have wasted a spectacular amount of money on weapon systems that either haven’t worked at all, or who have not lived up to their promise. Our acquisition and procurement process over the last 20 years can only be described as a complete disaster, from what’s going on with the F-35 to the LCS to the expeditionary fighting vehicle to future combat systems,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said on March 5.
“We on the Armed Services Committee have to seriously scrub those programs like the F-35. We can complain about the money that we wasted, but that’s gone. What we have to make sure is that we don’t waste any more.
“I want to stop throwing money down that particular rat hole,” Smith said.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter costs the U.S. military some $80 million each to buy and maintain, defense officials said in 2019 as they announced an agreement to buy 478 aircraft from Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, for $34 billion. Some of the planes were for allied nations.
The planes currently cost $36,000 per hour to operate. Lockheed said last month the goal is to lower that cost to $25,000 an hour by 2025.
The Air Force is currently examining the F-35 program, as well as other fighters, to determine the proper mix of aircraft in the future. Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. told reporters during a press conference last month that the F-35 is the cornerstone of the service’s future accomplishments.
“I want to be able to understand—as I start trying to make decisions—what do you want to look like as an Air Force 15 years from now, with the F-35 as a cornerstone of our capability?” he said, as he compared the fighters to Ferrari sports cars.
As of now, plans to buy 1,763 F-35s are still in place.
“You can’t get rid of the program,” he said. “What I’m going to try to do is figure out how we can get a mix of fighter attack aircraft that’s the most cost-effective, bottom line. And I’m telling you right now that a big part of that is finding something that doesn’t make us have to rely on the F-35 for the next 35 years.”
Smith was speaking during a virtual Brooks Institution event.
A Lockheed spokesperson told Defense News: “We look forward to continued engagement with Chairman Smith and other key members of Congress on the vital F-35 program during the coming Defense Authorization and Appropriation cycle. The F-35 is the most survivable, connected fighter in the world today.”