The Pentagon will request 78 F-35 jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp., six fewer than previously planned, in the budget expected to be sent to Congress next week, according to defense officials.
The cutback from the 84 fighters projected a year ago for fiscal 2020 is a setback for Lockheed, the No. 1 defense contractor, even as interest in the plane from foreign buyers increases. The officials asked not to be identified in advance of the budget release.
It’s likely to raise questions from skeptical lawmakers about why the Defense Department, which has spent years saying it needs the more advanced F-35, cut back the planned purchases even as the Air Force is seeking money to buy eight new, upgraded F-15 jets from rival Boeing Co. They would be the first F-15s the Pentagon bought since 2001.
Among the likely questions is whether Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing official, played any part in the decision to buy fewer planes from Lockheed and more from Chicago-based Boeing. However, Shanahan has recused himself from participation in all Boeing matters. (end of excerpt)
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