"I want to stop throwing money down that particular rat hole. I know it doesn't work particularly well," Smith said during a virtual event hosted by the Brookings Institutions.
Smith dismissed suggestions that the program is working better now after a series of initial problems. He said he would be happy to end all production on the F-35 immediately, but acknowledged that the option to do so did not exist.
"If I can trade the F-35 [and] take the [spending] cap hit in one year, that would be awesome but sadly we don't have that as an option. It's just painful. It just hurts. There's not an easy way out of it. ...The sustainment costs [of the aircraft] are brutal," he said.
The US Air Force and congressional budget appropriators need to develop a new mix of fighter attack aircraft that free the armed forces from having to rely on the F-35 for the next 35 years, Smith said.
During a press briefing on February 25, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown compared the F-35 to an expensive sports car and said he wanted to keep such planes only for high-end missions. The Air Force planned to order 1,763 F-35As, but 15 years after the first F-35 flew, only 250 of them have been delivered.
Smith's House Armed Services Committee and its counterpart in the Senate are responsible for drafting the annual defense budget, and typically start work on the process after the president submits a wish-list of priorities to Congress. The process of drafting the budget for 2022 is expected to begin in the coming weeks.