House Appropriations Bill Boosts F-35 Buy, Backs New JSTARS

The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) unveiled a $675 billion fiscal year 2019 defense appropriations bill June 6 that would buy 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 16 more than the Trump administration requested.

The HAC's proposed purchase of F-35s also represents a significant increase from the House and Senate FY 2019 defense authorization bills, which would fund 77 and 75 jets, respectively. The F-35 enjoys strong support from Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who chairs the HAC's defense subcommittee and represents Fort Worth, where Lockheed Martin [LMT] builds the stealth fighter.

Two F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah, and three F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, England, fly in formation during a training sortie over the United Kingdom, April 27, 2017. The F-35As first arrived at RAF Lakenheath on April 15, 2017, which marked it's first flying training deployment to Europe. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Two F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah, and three F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, England, fly in formation during a training sortie over the United Kingdom, April 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Like the House authorization bill, the HAC bill would continue an Air Force program to replace the aging E-8C JSTARS ground-surveillance plane.

The Air Force has proposed canceling the JSTARS replacement, or recapitalization, program, saying the new aircraft would be shot down in a war with China or Russia. But program supporters insist a new JSTARS could still play an important role in future conflicts.

The bill would also buy a total of 12 Navy ships, including three Littoral Combat Ships, two more than requested. It supports the request for three DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, one Expeditionary Sea Base, two TAO fleet oilers and one Towing, Salvage and Rescue Ship.

The bill endorses the request for 15 Air Force KC-46A tankers, 24 Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 10 Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and 10 Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopters.

It would also procure 18 C-130J planes, 58 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, 66 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, 13 V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, 10 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles, 24 MQ-9 UAVS, five space launches and upgrades to 85 Abrams tanks.

The HAC’s defense subcommittee is scheduled to formally consider the bill in closed-door session June 7. A report explaining the bill will be released when the full committee holds its markup, which has not yet been scheduled.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up its version of the bill later this month.

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