Lockheed Martin estimates that there could be a market for 100 or more F-35s in Asia-Pacific, beyond the more than 150 aircraft so far ordered by the region's confirmed customers Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
Orlando Carvalho, executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin's aeronautics business, says: “When I look across the region, I see high potential to realise maybe another 100 airplanes, to pick a round number,” he says.
He stresses that the figure does “not have a time limit on it,” and is a long-term estimate. As well as new customers, it also includes potential follow-on acquisitions from the region’s three F-35 buyers, who have committed to a total of 154 examples: Australia has signed up for 72 aircraft, Japan 42, and South Korea 40.
Australia has previously indicated that it could take its total fleet up to 100 aircraft. Japan is receiving its first four F-35As from Lockheed’s Fort Worth factory, with the remaining 38 to be produced under licence by Mitsubishi at Nagoya. It is entirely possible that Tokyo will seek to build more F-35As using this line.
Carvalho, however, declines to name potential new purchasers in the region.
Singapore government officials have openly said that they are evaluating the F-35, but have provided no details about the size of any order. They have also hinted that Singapore could buy the short take-off vertical landing B-variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, but have not ruled out the conventional F-35A.
For several Singapore airshows, Lockheed has displayed a full-sized mock-up of the F-35 outside its permanent display at the show. There is also a model of the F-35B’s lift fan, which is produced by Rolls-Royce.
Carvalho also takes heart from the longevity of an earlier Lockheed fighter programme: “We celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the F-16 back in 2014. Who in 1974 thought that they were going to sell 4,500 F-16s?”
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