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Lockheed says Israel will buy third squadron of F-35s in coming months

23rd February 2024 - 09:41 GMT | by Norbert Neumann in Singapore


Israel approved the purchase of a third squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets in a deal worth $3 billion last July. (Photo: IDF)

Lockheed Martin has revealed insights into the latest developments surrounding the F-35 programme, from pending Letters of Acceptance (LoAs) with Israel and Greece, to ongoing Tech Refresher 3 upgrades.

Lockheed Martin has said it anticipates signing two new Letters of Acceptances (LoA) for additional F-35 fighter jets, as Israel looks to extend its fifth-generation fighter fleet, while Greece will join the ranks of F-35 customers.

“One [of the LoAs will be] to an existing customer, Israel, in the next few months,” Steve Over, director of F-35 international BD at Lockheed Martin, told Shephard in an exclusive interview.

Israel, currently in conflict in Gaza, approved the purchase of a third squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets in a deal worth US$3 billion last July. Over said the new jets would be in the same “Adir” configuration.

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Israel has also been seeking 25 F-15IA fighter jets (the Israeli variant of the Boeing-made F-15EX) and 12 Apache attack helicopters. Discussions regarding all three platforms have been said to be at advanced stages.

Over noted that he expected Greece to sign an LOA in the next three to five months, which will make the country the 19th F-35 customer across the globe. In terms of an additional F-35 order from Singapore, the representative said Lockheed was “focused on trying to make sure that we're performing and delivering on their expectations for us”.

The F-35 has a production gap right now, Over disclosed, as Lockheed was waiting to finish the full qualification of the TR-3 software. The TR-3, which has been undertaking flight testing, features computational horsepower to support the modernised F-35 Block 4 capabilities.

Over emphasised that the production gap did not mean the company had stopped the production process. 

“We’re still building aeroplanes at our capacity of 156 aircraft a year,” he said. “So these aircraft are going down the production line, they’re being built, [and] we are actually accomplishing a flight or two on the jest to ensure airworthiness and confidence.”

Once the final software certification has been made available, Lockheed will install it, accomplish the last couple of test flights on the jets and then complete the title transfer process to the end user, Over explained. TR-3 upgrades will include new sensor suites, more long-range precision weapons, improved EW features, more powerful data fusion and increased cross-platform interoperability.

Aimee Burnett, VP of BD for the integrated fighter group at Lockheed, said the company had continued to see interest around the globe for its F-16 Block 70/72 fighter, including the Asia-Pacific region.

“Specifically, I think with Thailand,” Burnett noted. “I think it's known that they have an ongoing competition, which we plan to be part of, and I think we're a real strong competitor there.”

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has been seeking a replacement for its fleet of 50 F-16A/B Block 15 aircraft. Bangkok’s first choice was the F-35, but the US DoD has informally declined Thailand’s request, citing inadequate infrastructure facilities to support the stealth fighter on Thailand’s side. The two contenders for the RTAF fighter replacement programme were expected to be the F-16 Block 70/72 and the Gripen E.

The Block 70/72 currently has a backlog of 133 jets, but Burnett said its plan has been based on new buys from customers around the world and that Lockheed was “executing per plan”.

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Norbert Neumann


Norbert Neumann

Norbert is the Aviation, Military Training & Simulation reporter at Shephard Media. Before joining Shephard in …

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