Lockheed Martin F-35s Approved by House Spending Panel

The House panel that approves defense funding has produced a draft budget that bankrolls all 29 F-35 jets that the Pentagon requested for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The approval for the fighters made by Lockheed Martin Corp. is the highest-profile action on weapons systems in the proposal released today by the House defense appropriations subcommittee. The panel is scheduled to adopt the funding proposal tomorrow. The full appropriations committee hasn’t yet scheduled a meeting to act on the measure.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive program, with a fleet of 2,443 planes projected to cost $391.2 billion, a 68 percent increase since the Pentagon signed its initial contract with Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed in 2001.

The House panel’s draft bill approves $512.5 billion in non-war spending under its jurisdiction, which doesn’t include military construction and Department of Energy nuclear funding. The proposed bill includes $85.8 billion in war spending, primarily in Afghanistan, or $6.4 billion more than the Pentagon’s request.

The draft legislation includes $129.6 billion to provide pay for 1.3 million active-duty troops and 833,700 reserves, fully funding a 1.8 percent pay raise, instead of the 1 percent the Pentagon requested.

The draft legislation provides $98.4 billion, or $750 million less than requested, for equipment procurement and upgrades.

The bill includes $15 billion to procure eight Navy ships, including fully funding two SSN-774 attack submarines made by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. and General Dynamics Corp. A congressional aide who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said the $15 billion also includes money to buy an additional four Littoral Combat Ships, two each from Lockheed Martin and Austal Ltd.

United Technologies

The draft proposal includes $2.2 billion to buy 73 UH-60 and 37 MH-60S/R helicopters made by United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft unit and $1.9 billion for 21 Boeing Co. EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.

The draft bill also includes $220 million for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket program. For the first time, the Pentagon included money for the system in its annual budget request instead of adding it months later.

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