Lockheed Martin is making steady progress introducing the F-35 fighter to the Asia-Pacific region.
President of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Orlando Carvalho says that Lockheed and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries personnel are deep in the process of designing a final assembly and check-out (FACO) line for the conventional take-off and landing F-35A in Japan.
Tokyo announced plans to acquire 42 F-35s in late 2011. Four aircraft will be delivered from Lockheed’s Fort Worth assembly line, with the following 38 to be produced in Japan by Mitsubishi. The first four aircraft are scheduled for delivery from the second quarter of 2016, from the eighth lot of low rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft.
“We’re working with the US government to execute the programme for Japan,” says Carvalho. “We’ve done this before with Japan’s Mitsubishi F-2 fighter programme.”
Carvalho stresses that South Korea has yet to be confirmed as a customer, but that Lockheed is confident of an eventual order under the US government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) mechanism.
In 2013, Seoul dealt a blow to Boeing when it revised the terms of the long-running F-X III fighter competition to favour a stealth aircraft. This effectively eliminated the F-15 Silent Eagle from the deal, although the proposed aircraft had emerged as a favourite on pricing grounds.
Carvalho declines to comment on Singapore’s apparent interest in the F-35. He notes, however, that the country’s defence minister witnessed a demonstration of the short take-off and landing (STOVL) F-35B variant during a visit to the USA in 2013. This, he feels, could “indicate a preference” for the STOVL variant.