The U.S.A.F. Chief spoke about the Air Force budget, "U.S.A.F. Chief Makes Stark Budget Predictions," the bad and the good, at a National Press Club luncheon on Tuesday. He put the future of the F-35 in an interesting light:
But there are a few positive trends. Selection of a winning design for the KC-X tanker replacement is expected to be announced next month. The number of Air Force personnel will not decrease, and new systems — despite being fewer — will be designed with more flexibility, versatility and efficiency. The Lockheed Martin F-35 program, for example, could benefit from a multiyear contract, but only if there is a long-term requirement for the aircraft and if there is budget stability, Schwartz says. (emphasis added)Only if there is a long-term requirement for the aircraft? What does that mean? Obviously, he's saying they might not require it in the long-term. What he means by "long-term" is anyone's guess, whether it's that they might cancel it or whether it's going to go into full production with a limited run as they start developing another option, who knows. But it is put conditionally, that's what we can read. Note also the continuing concern regarding the cost of this plane which we have yet to contract for.
More for the "why this F-35 prospective purchase requires a competitive process" file.
Update: More worthwhile reading on the F-35 today from Glen Pearson (h/t).