F-35 Order Reduction Affects US Readiness

The drop in F-35 orders could hit aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, as it makes about a quarter of its revenue from the jet program.

Good news for Russia and China: fewer F-35s are arriving next year. The US military could receive fewer advanced aircraft than it needs to confront aggression from China and  Russia, it was reported Wednesday. The  Biden administration has called for an 18% cut in the number of  Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters next year.

Impact of budget cuts on the Pentagon’s F-35 fleet

The decision, first reported by Reuters, is the result of a cap imposed by Congress on the size of the next defense budget, which forced the administration to look for savings, two sources familiar with the situation said.

The fifth-generation fighter is one of the programs that will be eliminated. Department of Defense ( DoD ) orders for the F-35 will be reduced to fewer than 70, down from 83 expected, representing an estimated $1.6 billion decrease in aircraft spending. The  Pentagon had previously planned to buy 83 F-35s from Lockheed Martin next year for $9.8 billion.

The drop in F-35 orders could hit aerospace giant  Lockheed Martin, as it makes about a quarter of its revenue from the jet program. Lockheed shares fell 2.6% following the announcement of the reduction of the purchase by the Pentagon. The company said in a statement that it “looks forward to working with the  Biden administration and  Congress ” on the fiscal year 2025 budget in the coming months.

International demand for the F-35 —which costs between $80 million and $120 million depending on the variant—remains strong, as multiple NATO member countries and other U.S. allies and partners have sought to acquire the fifth-class multirole fighter.

Lockheed Martin plans to maintain production despite cuts

However, last month, Lockheed Martin also announced that it would cut 1% of its jobs throughout the year to reduce costs and streamline operations.

Despite the Pentagon’s reduced orders, it’s not all doom and gloom for  Lockheed Martin, as  Air & Space Forces magazine reported Thursday that the company expects production to remain at about 156 planes a year through 2028, depending on the plans of the US military services and the anticipated international market.

As noted, although the Pentagon may acquire fewer F-35s next year, other allies are seeing the value of the advanced stealth fighter. Fewer planes destined for the U.S. fleet simply mean those partners could receive their planes sooner.

Global presence of the F-35 and its role in NATO and its allies

According to the prime contractor,  Lockheed Martin, by the mid-2030s, there will be more than 600 F-35s stationed on the European continent, at NATO member bases and in  Switzerland. NATO members already participating in the  F-35 program include Germany,  Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the United States, Finland, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands,  Poland and the United Kingdom.

The Joint Airpower Competence Center ( JAPCC ) has described the fighter as the backbone of  NATO’s next-generation operations.

The fifth-generation multirole stealth fighter is already in service with armies around the world and has been tested in combat. To date, not a single aircraft has been lost in combat.