DN - Defence Notes

Future F-35 production numbers released

19th May 2017 - 12:05 GMT | by Ian Keddie in Toronto

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A new document released by the US Department of the Navy reveals further specifics of future Lockheed Martin F-35 multirole fighter aircraft production lots and confirms the timing of international deliveries.

The recent contract for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 10 was well publicised in February due to the vocal involvement of newly-inaugurated President Trump and came in at a total cost of nearly $9 billion for 90 aircraft.

Now, future contracts for the controversial F-35 programme are already on the books. Published on the FBO website by Naval Air Systems Command on 15 May, the new document outlines the recently awarded LRIP 12 contract, signed on 28 April at a cost of $1.38 billion.

The LRIP 12 to 14 Justification and Approval (J&A) notice reveals that LRIP 12 will number at least 147 airframes whilst further long lead items for LRIPs 13 and 14 account for an additional minimum of 156 and 154 airframes respectively.

In addition, the document lists the number of aircraft allocated to each customer per LRIP lot and, whilst almost half the total number are for US DoD customers (USAF, USN, and USMC), at least 77 aircraft from LRIP 12 are for foreign customers.  

By far the largest customer for LRIPs 12, 13, and 14 outside of the US will be the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which is set to receive 45 aircraft across the three lots. The final 15 aircraft will be delivered under Lot 14 between January and December 2022.

The RAAF’s expedited acquisition of the F-35A will see it become the first entirely fifth generation air force by 2025, according to a recent speech by Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he stated that the RAAF will ‘have no legacy aircraft after 2025’ under current procurement plans.

The J&A document also shows significant numbers for the Turkish Air Force, acquiring 24 across the three lots; the Netherlands will also receive 24; whilst Norway will get 18; and Denmark will receive 14 in total.

Most notably, however, are the redacted portions of document which invite consideration on the likely destination of these aircraft.

Across lots 12 to 14 there are three redacted customers who will receive 24, 18, and 12 airframes respectively. It is likely that these aircraft are bound for South Korea, Japan, and Israel.

Finally, one customer is redacted entirely with no numbers or variants listed but countries such as Belgium or Canada are possibilities as they are both in various stages of planning future combat aircraft procurements but have not yet selected the F-35.

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