The U.S. Dept. of Defense’s F-35 Joint Program Office placed a $1.28-billion contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. for “operations and sustainment” for the global F-35 fleet through June 30. The funding will cover the cost of “industry sustainment experts” supporting F-35 operations worldwide, including 26 individual bases, depot maintenance, pilot and maintainer training, and sustainment engineering. It also covers F-35 data analytics and supply-chain management for part repair and replenishment.
More than 600 F-35s have been delivered to U.S. and allied defense forces, and the announcement noted the “undefinitized contract action” (i.e., a contract without itemized terms) will fund maintenance costs for those aircraft while negotiations continue “on a long-term contract to build enterprise capacity and affordability” the future fleet of more than 3,000 aircraft.
F-35s are single-engine fighter jets in service with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy, as well as defense forces in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, and multiple other allied nations.
"This contract ensures F-35s remain ready to fly and accomplish the warfighter's mission," stated Bill Brotherton, Lockheed Martin F-35 program acting vice president and general manager. "We continue to see improvements in readiness and cost, and as the fleet grows, so does the opportunity for the joint government and industry team to collaborate, realizing even more long-term benefits."
The F-35 has been routinely criticized for its unit costs, though the Dept. of Defense also has objected to the costs for maintenance and updates to the aircraft and its controls. In October 2020, Lockheed agreed to provide DoD with $71 million worth of services for the F-35 fighter program, in compensation for supplying parts that were not suitable for installation in the aircraft.