LONDON – The United States Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have inked a $30 billion contract to manufacture and deliver up to 398 fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighter jets.
This is a milestone contract after many years of the aircraft being criticised as being a “white elephant” project. Within the 398 aircraft ordered, this contract includes the allocation for F35s destined for Finland, Belgium and Poland or Lot 15s, Lot 16s, and Lot 17s respectively.
F-35 Joint Program Executive Officer USAF Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt stated: “The F-35 delivers the unsurpassed capability to our warfighters and operational commanders.”
He furthered: “This contract strikes the right balance between what’s best for the US taxpayers, military services, allies and our foreign military sales customers.”
With the latest Lot 15-17 aircraft being rebooted with a Technical Refresh-3 (TR-3), this will modernise the latest batch of the 5th Generation fighter jet, by allowing upgraded hardware needed to run Block 4 capabilities.
The TR-3 will allow the newly designed core processor to be integrated with greater computing power, with a panoramic cockpit display and an enhanced memory unit.
This new batch of F-35s will be contributing to the growth of the already sophisticated fleet of 894 aircraft after Lockheed Martin successfully delivered 141 units last year. The F-35 management team stated that they are on target with a time frame to meet the production of 148 aircraft.
Recently, F-35s with fewer than 40 hours of flying were grounded following a crash in Texas, which means that necessary acceptance flight tests could not be flown.
No Longer A White Elephant?
The F-35 was often touted by the media and also some leading defence organisations as the white elephant. Given its expensive price tag and marred with cost overruns, the F-35 has suffered bad press.
Nearly all NATO countries are eyeing the F-35, including, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark to name a few. Switzerland a non-NATO country also placed orders on these 5th-generation jets. Countries, such as Czechia also placed orders for these expensive jets.
Towards the end of 2022, the F-35 showed significant international growth, with countries like Finland, Germany and Switzerland signing Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) to purchase the stealthy jet.
Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager, F-35 Program, said: “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.”
Lauderdale added: “There is simply no other aircraft that can do all that the F-35 does to defeat and deter even the most advanced threats.”
With more than 17 countries having introduced the F-35 jet, the F-35 stealth jet was a great target for the bad press after all. There have been more than 1,870 pilots and 13,500 engineers being trained for the aircraft.
With the F-35 leading the western allied nation on 5th generation technology, this aircraft offers the best counter stealth aircraft to the SU-57 respectively.