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U.S. Navy committed to F-35 despite talks about more F/A-18 buys

DUBAI (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy remains committed to the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, but is also looking at options to buy additional Boeing Co (BA) F/A-18 fighter jets, a senior U.S. Navy official said on Tuesday.

Richard Gilpin, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for air programs, told Reuters that current plans still called for purchases of the Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18G electronic attack planes to end in fiscal 2014.

He said the U.S. military would have to act soon to ensure continued production of the F/A-18 beyond 2016, but said no decisions had been made at this point.

He denied that those discussions signaled any wavering of the Navy's commitment to the F-35 program. "Let me be clear. The Navy is very committed to moving to JSF. I wouldn't want you to get the impression that the Navy is not committed to JSF, because we are," Gilpin said.

He said a possible budget-driven pause in procurement of the Navy's F-35 C-model would not derail the program, although it could potentially increase the cost of each airplane.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Mark Potter)