HASC Subcommittee Recommends Additional F-35Bs, F-18s in FY 2016 Defense Bill

F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on July 31, 2014. US Navy Photo

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F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on July 31, 2014. US Navy Photo
F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on July 31, 2014. US Navy Photo

The House Armed Services tactical air and land subcommittee supports filling the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ unfunded requirements for additional Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornets and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), committee aids told reporters on Wednesday.

Though the recommendation is subject to change between now and next week’s release of the full committee section of the annual defense bill, “the subcommittee does support, as members have said, additional F-18s and some F-35s,” a staffer said.

The Navy and Marine Corps had requested 12 additional F-18Fs, six F-35Bs and eight F-35Cs beyond what was included in their Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal. The subcommittee’s recommendation to the full committee supports the Super Hornets and the Marines’ B variant. The staffers could not say how many of each might be added – the funding for these additional planes would have to come from other subcommittees as well and therefore is a full committee discussion to be had next week – but they did note that several subcommittee members want to support as much of the Unfunded Requirements list as possible. The request for additional aircraft carrier variant JSFs was not supported, however.

Also on the unfunded requirements list is Javelin missiles for the Marine Corps and Army, which the subcommittee supports.

The subcommittee mark addresses concerns about the F-35 engine, the Pratt & Whitney F135, and requires the defense secretary to conduct an independent assessment on the engine’s reliability, growth and cost-reduction efforts. The committee staffers said this measure was included in part because of last year’s fire on an Air Force variant jet and in part because the engine is the only one for the program. The measure isn’t meant to slow down the program, only to verify that a pivotal component is on track, they said.

The mark also asks the defense secretary to submit information on Navy and Air Force infrared search and track (IRST) systems and Marine Corps and Army 5.56mm ammunition to ensure that there is a good reason for having separate programs rather than joint acquisition.

The subcommittee will mark up this language tomorrow, and the full committee will mark up all sections of the bill on April 29 before forwarding the bill for full House consideration.

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