Lockheed Martin reports it has a new defense contract worth $3.5 billion covering 31 modified F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets. It represents the fourth lot of a low-rate initial production (LRIP) series, and the contract also funds manufacturing-support equipment, flight test instrumentation and ancillary mission equipment.
Including the long-lead funding that Lockheed previously received from the U.S. Dept. of Defense, the total contract value for LRIP 4 is $3.9 billion. Lockheed Martin is co-developing the F-35 with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.
The F-35 is a supersonic, “multi-role” fighter jet with “stealth” technology that allows it to evade radar, infrared, and other detection technologies. Now in its fifth generation, the fighter has about 900 suppliers in total, the program directly or indirectly employs more than 127,000 people in 45 states, and more than that in the eight partner nations.
Three F-35 variants are in production now, each derived from a common design. According to the new contract, Lockheed Martin will produce 10 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variants for the U.S. Air Force; 16 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants for the U.S. Marine Corps; four F-35C carrier variants for the U.S. Navy; and one F-35B for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence. One F-35A will be optionally available to the Netherlands Ministry of Defence.
"We are focused on getting fifth-generation fighter capability into the hands of U.S. and allied pilots as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible," stated Lockheed Martin exec. Vice president Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin, who is the F-35 program general manager.
Lockheed’s new LRIP 4 order comes in addition to 31 F-35s contracted under LRIPs 1-3, three of which have already been completed. Nineteen test aircraft also have been produced, and the U.S. and nine partner nations plan to acquire more than 3,100 F-35 fighters.