The Biden administration has confounded defense observers by proposing a 35% cut in F-35 fighter orders from the plan for fiscal 2023. F-35 is the only next-generation combat aircraft the U.S. currently has in production, and it is expected to replace most of the tactical aircraft operated by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps–not to mention those of a dozen allies. The administration has yet to offer a coherent explanation of why now is the right time to cut F-35. There are multiple reasons to suspect its timing is all wrong. First, a war is raging in Europe in which airpower figures prominently. Second, Canada and Germany, two key allies, have just announced their intention to buy F-35. Third, the Pentagon is deviating from a recently agreed plan to buy F-35 each year in economic production quantities. Fourth, 2023 is President Biden’s first real defense budget, and cutting F-35 makes him look weak. Fifth, slashing the nation’s top airpower modernization program on the eve of midterm elections hands the GOP a defense issue with which to undercut Biden’s security credentials. I have written a commentary for 1945 here elaborating on why this is the wrong time to cut F-35 orders.
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