The US Department of Defence (DoD) is reportedly planning to procure fewer F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft from Lockheed Martin in 2020 than initially planned.

Bloomberg reported citing defence officials as saying that the Pentagon is set to scale down the number of F-35 jets to be bought from the 84 fighters projected a year ago to 78.

A request for 78 fighter jets will be included in the budget expected to be sent to Congress next week.

The move is seen as a setback for Lockheed and comes amid the US Air Force’s (USAF) proposal to buy eight new upgraded F-15 jets from rival Boeing as part of plans to secure 80 fighters over five years. If the request is approved, it would be the USAF’s first F-15 purchase since 2001.

“A request for 78 fighter jets will be included in the budget expected to be sent to Congress next week.”

The DoD is likely to receive extensive questioning from lawmakers on the cutback.

Bloomberg added that lawmakers may pose questions to find out whether the decision was influenced by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing official.

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However, Shanahan has distanced himself from the decision-making process on all matters related to Boeing, the publication stated.

The F-35s are also in service with the USAF, US Marine Corps and partner nations. Last month, the US Navy declared the operational-readiness of the F-35C, the aircraft carrier version of the stealth fighter jet.

Congress has allocated $9.34bn this year for the procurement of 93 F-35s, 16 more than the quantity sought by the Pentagon.