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Report: Pentagon to buy fewer F-35 fighters

The Pentagon is decreasing the number of F-35 fighter jets it intends to buy in 2015, according to Bloomberg News.

The reduction, from 42 to 35, reflects an effort to meet a tighter defense budget — $498 billion in 2015. But it also reflects a commitment to a program that has been criticized as “behind schedule and over budget.” 

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The projected total price for the F-35 program is $391.2 billion for an eventual fleet of 2,443 jets. That's 68 percent more expensive and 409 fewer aircraft than the original estimate, according to Bloomberg. 

The F-35 is a stealthy, fifth-generation fighter jet that officials say is critical for facing future enemies who are developing their own stealthy fighter jets. 

“We’re not the only ones who understand that going to this next generation of capability in a fighter aircraft is critical to survive in the future of battle space and so others are going, notably now the Chinese, the Russians and we’ll see more of that in the future,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday.  

The purchase of 34 jets is expected to include 26 of the Air Force’s model, six of the Marine Corps’ short-takeoff and vertical-landing model, and two of the Navy’s version for aircraft carriers, Bloomberg reported. 

Although the 2015 request will be eight fewer than originally expected, it is still an increase over the 29 the Pentagon requested in 2014. 

The Pentagon is due to release its 2015 budget request on March 4.