Friday, October 14, 2011

F-35 fighter program might face cuts

The US military's top officer signalled Thursday that the Pentagon might have to cut one of three planned models of the new F-35 fighter jet, citing budget pressures.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that while he believed a new fighter was vital he questioned whether a constrained defense budget could fund all three versions of the Joint Strike Fighter, including an aircraft able to take off or land vertically.

"I am concerned about the three variants and whether as we go forward in this fiscal environment, whether we can afford all three," Dempsey told the House Armed Services Committee.

The general said he was ready to "learn more about" the issue and to hear the views of the commandant of the US Marine Corps, General James Amos, a strong advocate of the short-take off, vertical landing (STOVL) version of the plane.

"But I'll tell you, that's something we have to keep an eye on" and three versions of the aircraft "create some fiscal challenges for us."