Pentagon to request fewer Lockheed F-35 warplanes in next budget - report

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F-35 Lightning II pilot U.S. Air Force Captain Kristin "BEO" Wolfe performs the "dedication pass" maneuver at the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Air Show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. November 21, 2020. U.S. Air Force/Capt. Kip Sumner/Handout via REUTERS.

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March 16 (Reuters) - The Pentagon will request 61 F-35 stealth warplanes from Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) in its next budget, 33 fewer than previously planned, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Lockheed, whose shares were down 6.4% in early trading, said in a statement that it was "premature" to speculate about the proposed budget.

"The Department (of Defense) cannot confirm specific budget details until after the FY23 President's Budget is released," a Pentagon spokesperson said.

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Reuters reported last month that U.S. President Joe Biden was expected to ask Congress for a defense budget exceeding $770 billion for the next fiscal year, compared with $778 billion in 2022. read more

The budget is expected to benefit the biggest U.S. defense contractors, including Lockheed, Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and General Dynamics Corp .

"This is a significant issue for the program," Cowen analyst Roman Schweizer said, referring to the news on request for fewer F-35s.

Several factors from high operating and maintenance costs to difficult contract negotiations might have contributed to the development, Schweizer said.

The F-35 is one of the world's most advanced fighter aircraft and considered a highly sensitive export, sold only to the closest allies of the United States.

Lockheed Martin delivered a total of 142 F-35 fighter jets to the United States and its allies last year, three more than originally planned. read more

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Reporting by Kannaki Deka and Nathan Gomes in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Aditya Soni

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