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FARNBOROUGH: Lockheed eyes strong customer base for Joint Strike Fighter

The US armed services will acquire more than 75% of all F-35s built, under current plans, with their requirements covering a "programme of record" for a combined 2,443 aircraft across the design's three variants.

The exact numbers to be bought will doubtless change over the next few years, but Lockheed Martin cites long-used totals of 1,763 conventional take-off and landing F-35A Lightning IIs for the US Air Force, and 680 aircraft for the US Navy and Marine Corps. These will be split between the F-35C carrier variant and short take-off and vertical landing F-35B, respectively.

Lockheed's eight international partners for the JSF programme's system development and demonstration phase - Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the UK - have identified shared requirements for another 738.

Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF BF-1, Lockheed Martin
 © Lockheed Martin

However, the UK's ongoing Strategic Defence and Security Review could affect its aspirations to buy 138 F-35Bs for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and political instability in the Netherlands earlier this year also saw doubts emerge over the nation's long-term commitment to the project.

Elsewhere, Australia's plans for a fleet of 100 F-35As will be influenced by its thinking on whether to retain or replace its newly fielded Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets.

Lockheed also sees significant potential for the F-35 with Foreign Military Sales customers, and expects orders to top 700 airframes.

Israel is considering whether to sign an initial order for around 25, subject to its gaining approval to make certain modifications to the type to meet national requirements. These include having the ability to use domestically developed electronic warfare systems and air-launched weapons.

Others cited as potential future FMS buyers include Belgium, Finland, Greece, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Spain.

So far, Lockheed has received firm orders for 31 aircraft via the programme's first three low-rate initial production lots, and is in negotiations for a fourth, projected to be for around 32 aircraft.

Hundreds of F-35s will be manufactured through nine annual LRIP orders before the US Department of Defense is scheduled to sign its first multi-year order for the type in 2016.

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