The F-35 strike fighter aircraft program will be subject to the same cuts as other defense programs under the budget sequester, the Defense Department’s Budget Chief told a House panel yesterday.

The F-35 will be take at least a 7.8 percent funding cut, Robert Hale, the Pentagon’s comptroller, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Details of how the cuts will be implemented if the sequester remains in effect will be determined by the program manager, Hale said.

Hale said that management reserves might be the likely place where program cuts would begin as well as support equipment. He expects that the sequestration would result in between two to four fewer aircraft being purchased with FY ’13 funds. This is all still being thought through, he said.

However, if a budget bill being discussed in the Senate to keep the federal government operating through the end of FY ’13 in September is approved by Congress it will “significantly” alter the F-35 and other programs’ budgets, Hale said.

The “whole game may change” again if Congress passes a budget, Hale said.

The F-35, variants of which are being developed and produced for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and international governments, has been plagued with significant cost overruns and delays. Nonetheless, Hale said the F-35 is needed in the face of “badly aging” Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft fleets and problems in the Navy.

Hale said the Pentagon’s acquisition leadership is trying to do a better job of managing the F-35 despite its problems “but I’m also convinced based on 40 years of watching the department we will make this plane work at night and land on carriers and all the things it needs to do.” He added that “we need to wait until we solve these problems…but we know we’ve got to make this plane fly and fly right and I believe we will do that.”

Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the F-35.