Senate bill would direct Navy to establish strike fighter mix based on previous studies

By Justin Katz / June 25, 2020 at 10:47 AM

A Senate panel wants the Navy secretary to align the service's strike fighter fleet with force structures previously studied by the Air Force and other independent or third-party agencies.

"The committee commends the Navy on transitioning to a strategy focused on the acquisition of 5th generation aircraft but remains concerned that the current strike fighter shortage data demand an increase in the annual total acquisition of fighter aircraft," according to the report accompanying the Senate Armed Services Committee's version of the defense policy bill.

"The provision would establish a minimum number of F-35 and Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) aircraft that the Navy and Marine Corps would be required to purchase each year to mitigate or manage strike fighter shortfalls," the report continues.

The committee wants the Navy secretary to use previous studies about strike fighter inventories to guide the service's acquisition strategy. The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Pentagon to conduct those studies as well as solicit assessments from a federally funded research and development center and an "independent nongovernmental institute."

Lawmakers would also direct the Navy to provide the new strategy in a report by March 2021.

"Finally, the provision would also prohibit the Department of the Navy's deviation from this strategy in its acquisition programs and related force structure until the Secretary of the Navy receives a waiver and justification from the Secretary of Defense and until 30 days after notifying the congressional defense committees of the proposed deviation," according to the Senate's report.

House lawmakers in their subcommittee marks of the policy bill are poised to pass new requirements and funding fences regarding both the F-35 fleets and NGAD program.