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The Wrong Number

March 16, 2007— A new Government Accountability Office report on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter suggests that DOD limit the annual production quantities to no more than 24 per year for each variant until the end of flight testing around 2010. The GAO notes that funding challenges already have forced the Air Force and Navy to decrease by about 28 percent the number of aircraft they plan to buy each year over the future years defense plan. GAO says that this stretchout will reduce projected annual funding requirements but will also extend procurement through 2034 not 2027. GAO analysis shows estimated annual funding has grown every year since DOD rebaselined the program in 2003 when the total program cost estimate was $244.8 billion compared to $276.5 billion in December 2005. The Pentagon believes it has balanced technical risk, fiscal realities, and service needs. However, Air Force officials disagree with both GAO and DOD. Air Combat Command head, Gen. Ronald Keys, declared earlier this year that the FYDP budget plan contains too few F-35s. He says a max of 48 fighters is “the wrong number” because the Air Force will be forced to spend more money to further extend the life of its F-16s.

Chart Source: Government Accountability Office report “Joint Strike Fighter: Progress Made and Challenges Remain,” March 2007.