Air Force leaders want to speed up production of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II fighter jet as soon as 2010 or 2011, but where the money will come from remains to be seen.
Gen. Norton Schwartz, President Bush's nominee for Air Force chief of staff, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had been given the green light to develop a 2010-15 budget plan based on having an additional $5 billion a year for new aircraft.
Schwartz said the Air Force would like to rapidly increase F-35 purchases above those now projected, from 48 planes in 2013 to as many as 110 a year by the middle of the next decade.
The general's comments surprised some in Washington and reportedly even the Air Force, since a new president and administration will take office in January with their own budget priorities. Most defense experts have said they don't expect a big increase in weapons.
But one defense analyst said the Bush administration has told the Air Force and Navy to develop six-year spending plans assuming that significantly more money will be available.
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