Tuesday, September 20, 2011

US Air Force vows to spare F-35 from budget cuts

The US Air Force vowed Monday to "protect" costly weapons programs despite budget pressures, saying the country needed the F-35 fighter jet, a long-range bomber and other aircraft.

While acknowledging the need for reductions to the defense budget, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley proceeded to list several big ticket programs that were not up for negotiation.

"There are certain capabilities we will protect. We will apply best military judgment to oppose reductions that would cause irreparable harm," Donley told retired members of the Air Force in a speech.

The firm line taken by Donley comes as the Pentagon seeks to fend off possible deep budget reductions by lawmakers. Congress has to find a way to trim the country's deficit by a November 23 deadline or else automatic cuts will be triggered that could derail the Pentagon's budget plans.

With an aging fleet of fighter planes, it was crucial to build the next generation combat aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to ensure US air superiority, Donley said.