The Defense Department has awarded Lockheed Martin a $2.1 billion contract for the production of the third low-rate phase of F-35 production-version aircraft, the company announced Wednesday. This production lot of 17 aircraft includes, for the first time, non-US orders, as Britain is buying two F-35s and the Dutch one for use in operational testing. This large infusion of funds builds on the more than $500 million previously awarded for the long-lead materials, tooling, and test equipment for Lot 3. Already Lockheed is manufacturing 14 aircraft under contracts awarded for the first two low-rate initial production runs. On top of that, Lockheed’s industry team, which includes principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, has built eight developmental aircraft that are already in testing, with 11 more of them planned for completion by year’s end. The Air Force is scheduled to receive its first production-version F-35A in 2010. The service’s program of record sits at 1,763, with final deliveries anticipated in the 2030s. In its Fiscal 2010 budget proposal, the service has requested funds to buy 10 F-35As.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.