WASHINGTON - The US Defense Department said on Thursday it would slow procurement of the multinational F-35 fighter jet being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp to allow more time for testing and design changes before buying bigger numbers.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter remained a top Pentagon priority and was committed to the "program of record," which calls for total US purchases of 2,443 fighter planes.
Panetta told reporters at a briefing about fiscal 2013 budget changes that the F-35 "remains essential to the future of air superiority."
Reuters has quoted sources familiar with Pentagon budget plans as saying that funding for 179 of 423 planned fighter jets will be cut from the next five-year spending plan and shifted to a later point. Panetta gave no details.