Singapore awaits F-35 performance data before launching detailed evaluation of next-generation fighter

The Lockheed Martin-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme underwent critical design reviews (CDR) for the conventional take-off and landing and short take-off and vertical landing versions on 13-17 February ahead of a US Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) evaluation at the end of March.

JSF Singapore W445

Singapore is seen as a key export possibilty

Depending on the DAB review, a contract for long-lead items on the first five low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft could be placed with Lockheed by April. The CDR for the naval version will be held in December.

Lockheed JSF programme executive vice-president Tom Burbage describes the review as “the mother of all weeks. It started on Monday and ended on Friday and I think the grand total was something in the order of 2,400 view-graphs.”

Speaking at Asian Aerospace, Burbage said the final CDR report is expected to take at least a fortnight to complete. However, “I think people think the risk is controlled and the programme is in a fairly mature state,” he said.

The clearance of that milestone is also expected to see significant growth in international market interest in the aircraft beyond the core partner nations, particularly from Israel and Singapore, and potentially Japan. “Since we are past the CDR the configuration is stabilised and basically blessed, and we can now talk in more detail about the capabilities of the aeroplane and I think you will see the interest continue to go up now,” Burbage said.

Singapore will be given more details of the aircraft’s capabilities after the completion of the DAB. “Following the review in March and April the Singaporeans will know enough about the aeroplane to then evaluate it against their requirements. They will then go through their own evaluation and decide what else they need to know and how well it matches up and whether it is the right aeroplane for them,” said Burbage.

Indicative LRIP schedule data released by Lockheed indicates that up to 55 aircraft would be available for export via the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme by mid-2015. Initial release of FMS aircraft would commence in January 2014 as part of the Lot 5 LRIP programme.

The indicative LRIP schedule remains dependent upon final orders placed by partner nations, which will form a key element of the multi-nation production, sustainment and follow-on development (PSFD) memorandum of understanding now being negotiated. Burbage said that Lockheed expects to have draft industrial participation plans for the LRIP phase completed by mid-March, with these to be briefed to partner nations from later that month.

The indicative schedule shows that one FMS aircraft would be available per month up until September 2014, rising to two from October 2014 and three from March 2015. By December 2015, seven aircraft a month would be available to FMS customers, compared with a delivery rate of three aircraft a month for JSF partner nations and 12 aircraft a month for the USA.

Source: Flight International