Fort Worth Says Thank You, Mr. Putin As F-35 Orders Pour In – As the firearms industry likely has President Joe Biden to thank for strong gun sales this summer, executives at Lockheed Martin (as well as some of the aerospace giant’s largest shareholders) may want to send a thank you basket to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. That’s because the F-35 is selling like hotcakes – among other Lockheed products.
His unprovoked and wholly unwarranted invasion of Ukraine has been perfect for the company’s bottom line. Lockheed Martin, which is the largest defense and aerospace contractor in the United States, manufacturers the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile that has been used to great effect to destroy Russian tanks on the ground.
As a result, production has increased and the workers at Lockheed Martin’s plant the Troy, Alabama are certainly happy to see it running at full production. President Biden had visited the facility in early May and touted the company’s efforts to ramp up the manufacturing efforts.
Fort Worth’s F-35 Lines are Running Hot
Then there are the workers on the company’s Fort Worth production line, where F-35 Joint Strike Fighters now move from station to station, screens display information that includes each aircraft’s overall sequence number, the military base where it is head, and notably, the country that ordered it.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the screens have a “United Nations feel these days,” which isn’t surprising as nations worldwide have placed orders for the fifth-generation multirole stealth fighter. A game of “name that flag” could be played, and even if those working the line haven’t traveled the world, they’ll get a chance to see the flags of the United Kingdom, Norway, Israel, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, Japan and many more countries.
Orders for the advanced aircraft, arguably the most capable fighter in the world today, have only increased since Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine.
“There’s huge interest from around the world,” J.R. McDonald, vice president of F-35 business development at Lockheed Martin, said in an interview with the newspaper. “And obviously the situation in Ukraine makes everybody re-think their protection and their security of their own country.”
The timing couldn’t be better. Though the United States Department of Defense (DoD) has reduced the number of F-35s that the U.S. military will receive in the next fiscal year (FY) budget, international demand is simply unprecedented. That is good news for the workforce, which is currently at around 18,000.
Military hardware, which can have an ebb and flow based on demand, aren’t always good for worker retention, but Lockheed Martin has devised a strategy to maintain a stable workforce – which could be especially necessary given the near record low unemployment. It is also worth noting that F-35 full rate production (FRP) is still likely upwards of six months to a year away.
F-35 Order Up
In July, the Pentagon reached an agreement that would see Lockheed Martin build about 375 F-35s over the next three years.
“We are pleased to announce that the Department and Lockheed Martin reached a handshake agreement for the next F-35 lot buy on a basis of 375 aircraft,” said William LaPlante, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.
In addition, Lockheed Martin also signed a modification contract valued at $7.63 billion to produce a total of 129 F-35 aircraft – from all variations – while also providing 69 shipsets of technical hardware in the next year. The contract will serve the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, non-U.S Department of Defense (DoD) participants, as well as Foreign Military Sales customers.
According to the Pentagon, 49 of the F-35As will be delivered to the Air Force, while three F-35Bs and 10 F-35Cs will be received by the Marine Corps. Fifteen of the contracted F-35s are for the U.S. Navy, while 32 F-35As and four F-35Bs will be delivered to non-DoD participants. The remaining 16 F-35s will go to U.S. allies under Foreign Military Sales. A major portion of the agreement will be executed in Fort Worth, Texas; whilst additional work will be completed in California and the UK.
The F-35 program remained the largest revenue generator for Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics business unit and accounted for 68 percent of Aeronautics’ net sales in 2021. To date, the aerospace giant has delivered 814 F-35 airplanes since the program’s inception, with 169 jets in backlog until June 2022. This, along with the latest contract win, will only serve to increase the sales expectation for the Aeronautics business segment. Lockheed Martin currently expects to make deliveries of its stealth aircraft in the range of 147-153 jets per year in 2023 and 2024, and 156 thereafter in 2025 and beyond.
Vladimir Putin has undoubtedly helped make this an excellent year for Lockheed Martin.
Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.