WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department will request 34 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets in its 2015 budget request, eight fewer than initially planned, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told an industry conference on Tuesday.
Hale said the decision to buy fewer than planned F-35s reflected budget pressures, not concerns about the program's performance. "It's an affordability issue, not performance," Hale told a conference hosted by McAleese and Associates and Credit Suisse.
Hale said the program, which is nearly 70 percent over budget and years behind schedule, was showing improvement. "It's starting to get on an even footing," he said.
Hale declined to give details about planned purchases in coming years, but said production of the fighter jets would be increasing.