Air Force Committed to F-35, Period

Secretary Michael Donley said Thursday he was tired of answering questions about the Air Force’s commitment to the F-35 strike fighter, saying the service has no intention of reducing its planned total buy number any time soon. “I’d like to put this to bed as well as I can,” he said during an AFA-sponsored address in Arlington, Va. “I’ve said many, many times [that] decisions about the size of the F-35 fleet are decisions for the 2020s—the 2020s,” he added, repeating the date for emphasis. Donley said any decision on F-35 numbers “would have no effect” in the next five or 10 years, the period during which the Pentagon is dealing with a projected budget cut of some $487 billion. Donley’s response followed a reporter’s question about whether the Air Force was considering purchasing new F-16s to offset the delays in the F-35 program. Donley said that was not on the table since the planned modifications to the existing F-16 fleet “will be more cost-effective” than buying new aircraft.