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Pentagon says not worried about 'death spiral' of F-35 costs/orders

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland (Reuters) - The Air Force general who runs the Pentagon's F-35 fighter program on Tuesday said communications with top contractors Lockheed Martin Corp and United Technologies Corp had improved greatly in the last year.

Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan told the annual Air Force Association conference that the F-35 program was making slow but steady progress, and that he saw strong support from the U.S. military services and foreign partners.

Given that support, he said he no longer worried that the F-35 program would be afflicted by a so-called "death spiral" in which cuts in rising costs lead to lower orders which in turn further boost prices.

Bogdan said he saw no indication that the U.S. Air Force, Navy or Marine Corps planned to significantly reduce their total orders for the F-35 program, despite mounting budget pressures.

The F-35 is designed to be the next-generation fighter for decades to come for U.S. forces and their allies. The F-35 program, hit by technical faults, is several years behind schedule and 70 percent above cost estimates.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by David Storey)

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