American aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin ended 2022 on a truly high note – coming off a spectacular holiday season. On Friday, the company finalized a contract with the United States government’s F-35 Joint Program Office for as many as 398 additional F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.
The contract, which is valued at up to $30 billion, includes aircraft for the United States military as well as international partners and foreign military sales in Lots 15 and 16, with an additional option for Lot 17. The F-35s produced for the contract will be the first of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft to be outfitted with the “Technical Refresh-3 (TR-3)” hardware update, which features a new integrated core processor, panoramic cockpit display, and an improved memory unit.
“This contract strikes the right balance between what’s best for the U.S. taxpayers, military services, allies and our foreign military sales customers,” said F-35 Joint Program Office program executive officer Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt. “The F-35 is the world’s premier multi-mission, 5th-generation weapon system, and the modernized Block 4 capabilities these new aircraft will bring to bear strengthens not just capability, but interoperability with our allies and partners across land, sea, air and cyber domains.”
The agreement includes 145 aircraft for Lot 15, 127 for Lot 16, and up to 126 for the Lot 17 contract option, including the first F-35 aircraft for NATO allies Belgium and Poland, and potential NATO ally/partner nation Finland.
The LMT business unit, Aeronautics, also secured a modification contract involving different variants of the F-35 – with that award being offered by the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland. Valued at $7.84 billion, the contract is currently projected to be completed by August 2026. Under the terms of the deal, the contractor will procure 127 F-35 aircraft from the 16th lot, which includes 89 F-35A jets, 23 F-35B jets, and 15 F-35C jets.
The contract also entails providing associated auxiliary equipment to support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The deal will serve the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, the non-U.S. Department of Defense participants, and Foreign Military Sales customers. A major portion of the work related to the modification contract will be carried out in Fort Worth, Texas.
F-35 Fleet Growing
These aircraft will add to the growing global fleet, currently at 894 aircraft after 141 deliveries last year. The F-35 team was on track to meet the commitment of 148 aircraft as planned; however, due to a temporary pause in flight operations, which is still in effect, necessary acceptance flight tests were not yet performed.
Additional deliveries have been halted while the Dec. 15 landing accident involving a company aircraft at Texas’ Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth is being investigated.
However, the F-35 fleet has still logged over 602,000 flight hours to date. More than 1,870 pilots and 13,500 maintainers trained with the aircraft. The Lightning II is now operated by 17 nations around the world.
Letters of Offer and Acceptance
Lockheed Martin also reported that the finalized contract capped off a year of the F-35 delivering combat-proven airpower around the world and continued international growth. In 2022, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland signed Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) as an important step in their procurement of F-35 aircraft.
“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,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager, F-35 Program. “There is simply no other aircraft that can do all that the F-35 does to defeat and deter even the most advanced threats.”
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.