F-35s perform a flyover at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, April 21, 2024.

F-35s perform a flyover at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, April 21, 2024. U.S. Army National Guard / Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely

House authorizers: cut F-35 purchases to fix problems

Their version of the defense policy bill would reduce the Pentagon’s 2025 purchase by 10 jets.

With F-35 deliveries on hold due to upgrade woes, House authorizers want to trim this year’s purchases of the jet and put the money toward fixing several problems.

The Pentagon would lose 10 F-35s across all three services under the House Armed Services chairman’s mark of the fiscal 2025 policy bill, reducing the total buy to 58.

This move would save $1 billion to be plowed into the program. Lawmakers want a digital twin of the F-35, a new avionics flying testbed and additional software integration lab, and to fix problems with the jet’s radars, according to a congressional staffer.

The bill would also prevent the delivery of 10 additional jets until the Pentagon “submits to the congressional defense committees certain corrective action plans and acquisition strategies that will improve research, development, testing, evaluation, and production issues and deficiencies identified across multiple areas within the F-35 program enterprise,” according to the legislation. 

The F-35 program has been struggling to field a computing upgrade that will enable the jet to use new weapons. This Technology Refresh 3 has been delayed multiple times and the Pentagon still doesn’t know when it will be fully ready. The Pentagon has stopped accepting the deliveries of new F-35s from Lockheed Martin and dozens of jets are currently sitting in storage.

But TR-3 is just “one of the many issues out there we’re trying to address coming into the 2025 NDAA,” the staffer said. 

The Pentagon had already cut its planned buy of F-35s in its 2025 budget proposal due to spending caps set by Congress. While international demand for the F-35 remains high, it remains to be seen if international customers could alter their funding plans to fill those production slots.

But the staffer said that the F-35 program office has told them that six of the 10 jets they’re cutting could be made up with foreign military sales.

The draft policy bill is the start of a long budget process. The House Armed Services committee is set to mark up the bill on May 22, and will likely make a number of changes to the legislation.