The U.S. Dept. of Defense released $7.63 billion to Lockheed Martin Corp. to increase the amount available for the production of 129 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. This represents a modification to an advanced-acquisition contract previously awarded in connection with Lot 15 of the F-35 program, for which manufacturing is already underway despite no final agreement on the final costs.
Last month the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin arrived at a “handshake agreement” on production for Lots 15, 16, and 17 of the F-35 program, to total 375 aircraft incorporating the most recent cost-structures achieved by the Lockheed and its program partners, as well as the latest hardware needed to achieve the latest technological updates to the F-35 (Block 4.)
No cost structures have been revealed in relation to the Lots 15-17 agreement, though reports suggest it could be worth a total of $30 billion to Lockheed and its F-35 partners.
The F-35 is a single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft deployed for ground attack and combat, and available in three variants: F-35A, for conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL); F-35B, for short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL); and the F-35C carrier-based variant for Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant. Operators include the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, plus defense forces in nine allied nations. Supply deals are pending for six other foreign customers.
Over 800 F-35s have been supplied since 2006. While Lockheed is the lead contractor for the F-35 – which is the largest U.S. defense program – other contractors include Pratt & Whitney, BAE Systems, and hundreds more.
The new funding for Lot 15 will allow production of 49 F-35A aircraft for the USAF; three F-35Bs and 10 F-35Cs for the USMC; 15 F-35Cs for the USN; 32 F-35As and four F-35Bs for “non-U.S Dept. of Defense participants; 16 F-35As for Foreign Military Sales customers; and 69 shipsets of technical hardware.
Work on the contract, more than half of which will be performed by Lockheed in Fort Worth, Tex., and is due for completion by October 2024.