The contract for the production and delivery of up to 398 F-35s has been finalised by the F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin. This contract is valued at $30 billion and includes aircraft for the United States, international partners, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) in Lots 15 and 16, with the option for Lot 17.
According to Lieutenant General Mike Schmidt of the United States Air Force, who serves as the programme executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office, “The F-35 gives unequalled capabilities to our warfighters and operational commanders.” This deal achieves the correct balance between what is beneficial for U.S. taxpayers, military services, allies, and our customers who purchase international military products. The F-35 is the leading multi-mission, 5th-generation weapon system in the world, and the updated Block 4 capabilities that these additional aircraft will bring to bear will increase not only capability, but interoperability with our friends and partners across land, sea, air, and cyber domains.”
The deal calls for 145 aircraft to be delivered under Lot 15, 127 aircraft to be delivered under Lot 16, and up to 126 aircraft to be delivered under the contract option for Lot 17. These numbers include the delivery of the first F-35 aircraft to Belgium, Finland, and Poland.
The aircraft in Lots 15-17 will be the first to feature Technical Refresh-3 (TR-3), the updated hardware that is required to enable Block 4 capabilities. The TR-3 comes with a brand new integrated core processor that has more computational capability, a panoramic cockpit display, and an improved memory unit.
After 141 deliveries this year, the total number of aircraft in the worldwide fleet will increase to 894 with the addition of these aircraft. The F-35 team was on schedule to achieve the commitment of 148 aircraft as planned; but, critical acceptance flight tests could not be done as a result of a brief suspension in flying operations, which is currently in force.
The deal, which has now been signed, brings to a close a year in which the F-35 has delivered combat-proven airpower throughout the globe and continues to expand internationally. As a significant move forward in the acquisition of F-35 aircraft, the countries of Finland, Germany, and Switzerland all signed Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) in 2018.
According to Bridget Lauderdale, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Program and general manager of the F-35 Program, “The fact that we are continuing to add new countries to our global F-35 fleet further validates the capability and affordability of this aircraft in providing 21st Century Security to nations and allies.” There is no other aircraft that can compete with the F-35 in terms of its ability to destroy and deter even the most sophisticated adversaries.
There are presently seventeen nations participating in the F-35 programme. To this day, more than 1,870 pilots and 13,500 maintainers have been trained for the F-35 fleet, and the aircraft’s total accumulated flying time has already reached 602,000 hours.