Senators Push for More F-35 Oversight in Spending Bill

Col. David Shevchik, Jr., commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard, flies the wing’s final F-35A Lightning II to the South Burlington Air National Guard Base during a ceremony marking the arrival, South Burlington, Vt., Oct. 14, 2020. The aircraft is the 20th and final to be assigned to the wing since taking delivery of the first two in Sept. of 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell)

The Senate Appropriations Committee wants to keep a closer eye on the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program.

Lawmakers added multiple provisions to the committee’s version of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill that call for more reports on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as greater transparency in future budgets.

The committee is offering $1.1 billion for 12 more F-35As, and $525.5 million for five more F-35Cs, than the Pentagon requested. In total, Senate appropriators want to spend $5.5 billion on 60 F-35As for the Air Force in 2021. That’s nearly identical to the House’s plan for the F-35A, which offers $5.8 billion. The service requested 48 of the jets.


Navy Deactivates F-35 Training Squadron as it Concentrates Stealth Fighter Ops

The U.S. Navy has deactivated its stealth fighter squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The service announced last week that F-35C Joint Strike Fighters belonging to the “Grim Reapers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 had left Eglin, which had served as a Lightning II training hub since 2012, according to a news release. The Navy in December said plans were in the works to move its F-35C operations to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, concentrating its Joint Strike Fighter operations out west.


The USAF?s F-35A Just Saw Combat for the First Time

The U.S. Air Force?s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter saw combat for the first time earlier this week, dropping a satellite-guided bomb on an Islamic State target in northeast Iraq. The mission was the first for the service?s variant of the F-35 since the jet was declared initial operations capable in August 2016.

According to U.S. Central Command, the target was an ?entrenched tunnel network and a weapons cache? in Iraq?s Hamrin mountain range. Two F-35As dropped a Joint Directed Attack Munition on the target, described as a ?location able to threaten friendly forces.? JDAMs are regular unguided ?dumb? bombs fitted with a GPS-based guidance system and steerable tail fin kit. The pilot enters the GPS coordinates of the target into the JDAM and the guided munition will steer itself to the target. Military GPS is typically accurate to within 3 meters, making JDAMs extremely accurate.


The Navy’s “Operational” F-35C Is Fully Mission Capable Less Than Five Percent Of The Time

Newly available data shows that less than 15 percent of the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighters and around just two percent of the U.S. Navy’s F-35Cs were fully mission capable at any given time, on average, for more than two years at least.

The details come as the readiness rates for aviation fleets across both services have plummeted in recent years. It is also a clear indication that they will have a difficult time meeting the target of 80 percent mission capability rates for both aircraft by the end of the 2019 Fiscal Year that former Secretary of Defense James Mattis had mandated last year.