New contract powers Japan towards F-35 assembly

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Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $30 million contract to acquire long-lead production items needed to enable Japan to perform the local assembly of its first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

In December 2011 Tokyo picked the conventional take-off and landing F-35A for a 42-aircraft requirement. The first four will be delivered from Lockheed’s Fort Worth site in Texas, with the remainder to be completed using a final assembly and check-out (FACO) line being established with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya.

Japan’s F-35 acquisition was formally kicked off in March 2013, when the US Department of Defense awarded Lockheed $40.2 million to acquire long-lead items for its initial four aircraft, via a so-called C-1 contract. These will be delivered from the second quarter of 2016, as part of the US programme’s eighth lot of low-rate initial production (LRIP).

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Lockheed Martin

In a contract notification published on 18 October, the DoD said Lockheed will receive $30 million “to provide long lead-time parts, materials and components required for the delivery of two additional low-rate initial production Lot VIII F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter conventional take-off and landing aircraft for the government of Japan”.

Responding to a query from Flightglobal, Lockheed says Japan’s planned procurement profile remains unchanged. The company adds: “The DoD media release refers to the long-lead required to produce two aircraft under the C-2 LOA [letter of offer and acceptance] to be delivered in LRIP-9 from the Japanese FACO facility in Nagoya.”

The new allocation “places the long-lead funding required for C-2 in the right year considering the Japanese budget cycle”, says the airframer. “It will take longer to begin producing the parts and components for final assembly in Japan vs the US,” it notes.

Japan’s stealthy F-35As will replace its air force’s McDonnell Douglas/Mitsubishi F-4EJ-variant Phantoms. Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database records the service as having a current active fleet of 78 of the type, the oldest of which entered use in 1971.