Twenty United States senators from both parties wrote a letter to the heads of the Appropriations and Armed Services committees supporting Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 jet, which has suffered from cost overruns and delays.
In the letter written on May 5, seen by Reuters, the senators urged funding of modernisation and sustainment plans for the jet, which has struggled to meet targeted cost-per-flying-hour goals as well as mission capability rates.
The letter comes before the release of the detailed version of the Pentagon’s 2022 budget request in the coming weeks and follows a similar letter signed by 132 members of the US House of Representatives from April 28.
Pentagon officials, executives from Lockheed, the jet’s prime contractor, and Raytheon Technologies Corp’s Pratt and Whitney division, which makes the F-35 engine, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on April 20 about the jet’s strengths and weaknesses. During testimony, the executives said they were working to rectify deficiencies in the program that ran the gambit from slow software updates for the jet and its system, to early deterioration of parts like blades and the pilot’s canopy.
Lockheed Martin plans to deliver between 133 and 139 jets this year. The jet has a network of more than 1,800 suppliers that have been strained during the pandemic.