Author:Tadjdeh, Yasmin

Twelve countries have committed to orders of the F-35 joint strike fighter either as formal partner nations or through foreign military sales. As production of the fifth-generation systems ramp up, the joint program office and manufacturer Lockheed Martin are looking to expand their global footprint even further.

Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom currently are in formal partnership with the United States on the F-35 program. Israel, Japan and South Korea have made orders through the foreign military sales process. Belgium also recently signed on to purchase platforms.

Vice Adm. Mathias Winter, program executive officer for the F-35 joint program office, said his team is currently examining a number of new potential FMS candidates. These include nations such as Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain and Poland, he said in written testimony to the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical and land forces in April.

Additionally, "the F-35 FMS team is also focused on responding to formal requests for proposals from both Finland and Switzerland, with U.S. government response expected in August and November, respectively," he said.

Winter also noted that in December, Japan announced that it plans to purchase an additional 105 aircraft. That will include 63 F-35 As and 42 F-35B short take-off and vertical landing platforms. Lockheed Martin and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries operate a final assembly and check-out facility, or FACO, in Nagoya.

"With this anticipated purchase, Japan will be the largest international customer of F-35s with 147 planned aircraft," Winter said.

More than 390 F-35s are currently in the global fleet, Winter said. That number will swell to nearly 500 by the end of 2019. Production will ramp up as operational testing concludes in the fall of 2019 and the program enters full-rate production, he added.

"To prepare for increased quantities, production experts from across the United States government are working with our industry partners to deliver quality parts on time and at affordable costs," he said. "To achieve efficiencies, the program has incorporated a number of performance initiatives and incentives across the entire supply chain to support F-35 production lines in Italy, Japan and the United States."

In November, the F-35 joint program office awarded Lockheed Martin an undefinitized contract action for low-rate initial production Lot 12. That obligated $6 billion--$3.5 billion from the United States and $2.5 billion from international countries--in funding for a total of 255 aircraft. That includes 89 systems for international partners and 60 F-35s for foreign military sales. Deliveries of Lot 12 are scheduled to begin in January 2020.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said the F-35 joint program office is in contract negotiations with prime contractor Lockheed Martin regarding the LRIP Lot 12...

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