The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is noticeably absent at the Paris air show after the F-35B failed to arrive at Farnborough in 2014. But Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin have spared no opportunity at Paris to talk up the fifth-generation fighter programme’s maturity and the prospects of for additional aircraft sales.
Pratt & Whitney president Paul Adams said during a press briefing Tuesday that more nations will likely turn to JSF for protection as the world becomes “more dangerous”.
His comments comes as a US-led coalition drops bombs on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, and as a Russia and China continue to intimidate their neighbours with bomber flights and air intercepts.
“I think the capabilities of the airplane are just stunning,” Adams says. “I think over the next couple of years this will become very well-known and well seen by militaries across the globe.
“Frankly, I think one of the motivating factors is we live in a dangerous world, and the more dangerous the world that we live in, the more opportunities there are for sales. It’s an important note that the [Lockheed F-22 Raptor] actually went into operational flight service in Syria in the last year, and that’s really based on the stealth capability. The JSF is the next generation beyond that.”
Pratt and Lockheed hope programme partners Denmark and Canada will recommit to F-35 procurement, and that the current cohort of international buyers will place additional orders. The US government is also pushing the F-35 to replace Belgium’s aging F-16 Raptors and Finland’s F/A-18 Hornets.
According to Lockheed F-35 programme head Lorraine Martin, the company is supporting the US government’s F-35 offer to Belgium and Finland.
She also thinks the foreign military sales customers Japan and Israel are likely to place additional orders as production ramps up in the coming years.
The F-35 and F-22 are both powered by P&W turbofan engines – but the F-22 was never approved for export. The Obama administration is not currently considering F-35 sales to American partners in the Middle East, although it is hoped that F-35 will eventually proliferate like the F-16 Falcon.
Adams says he is upbeat about the engine’s performance going into the final stages of development, despite a recent damning report by the US Government Accountability Office. He says the operational F-35 fleet’s average readiness rate for 2015 stands at 96.3%, which is “substantially above its target”.