90 House lawmakers have penned a letter to President Biden asking that the administration’s fiscal 2023 budget ramp up the buy of the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 fighter to at least 100 per year.

“We agree with Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown that, the F-35 is ‘the cornerstone of our fighter fleet, and it will be for the foreseeable future,'” per the Oct. 19 letter to Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young. “As you well know, our adversaries continue to advance surface-to-air missile systems and develop their own stealth fighters at an astonishing pace. Meanwhile, the average age of the U.S. Air Force fighter fleet is approaching 30 years and the cost to operate and support these legacy aircraft continues to rise.”

“The U.S. must modernize our fighter inventory to ensure we can sustain a strong national defense and maintain an advantage to counter the pacing threat – China,” the letter said. “The F-35 is made right here in America by a diverse and high-tech American workforce. It is also the only fighter in production that can produce aircraft in the numbers required to revitalize our aging fighter force.”

Nine of 58 House Appropriations Committee (HAC) members signed the letter, including Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who are members of the HAC defense panel, and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), and David Valadao (R-Calif.).

Of the House Armed Services Committee’s 59 members, 16 signed the letter–Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Robert Wittman (R-Va.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Scott Franklin (R-Fla.), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), and Blake Moore (R-Utah).

The lawmakers letter to Biden said that “it is essential that we continue to increase production numbers of our nation’s only 5th generation stealth fighter to recapitalize our fighter fleet and ensure the United States maintains air dominance.”

“It is disappointing that year after year DoD continues to flat-line F-35 production investments, defer needed readiness funding, and underfund advanced capabilities for this critical fleet,” the representatives wrote. “This is one of the reasons Congress has consistently supported additional investment in the program. Mr. President, the F-35 is both affordable and more capable than any other aircraft proposed in the budget; it is a technological marvel that represents the best of American manufacturing.”

While HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has suggested reducing the F-35 buy significantly, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has noted that there are no viable alternatives that would match the F-35A’s estimated loss-exchange ratios in combat and that he wants to reduce sustainment costs that have plagued the program.

Smith has said that an acceleration of the Air Force Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, swarms of small drones, and Boeing [BA] F-15EXs could help replace F-35, if it does not see significant sustainment cost reductions, but an acceleration of NGAD would be on the order of months, not years, Air Force Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, the service’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, said last month (Defense Daily, Sept. 20).