Military Periscope Logo

F-35 Lightning II

Country of Origin: USA


The F-35 is in service.

First flight of the AA-1 development variant of the F-35 Lightning II (so named by the Air Force in mid-2006), came on Dec. 15, 2006. First flight for the F-35B came on June 11, 2008. The first F-35A aircraft, designated AF-1, completed its maiden flight on Nov. 14, 2009. First flight of the F-35C occurred on June 6, 2010.

As of April 2020, the U.S. Air Force stationed its active-duty F-35As at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Eielson AFB, Alaska; and RAF...

Early Development

Doubts over the ability of the U.S. to fund separate Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps strike aircraft programs led to a recommendation in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR) to scrap both the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) and Advanced Strike Aircraft (A/F-X) and substitute a Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) effort. This evolved into the JSF in 1995, at which time STOVL programs in the U.S. and United Kingdom were added. The U.K. signed on as a "collaborative partner" and committed US$200 million to the concept decision phase.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin won concept demonstration contracts in November 1996. The US$750 million contracts funded the CD aircraft and research into the preferred weapon system concept (PWSC) that was part of the EMD submission that was judged in 2001. In an effort to keep the contractors from bankrupting themselves to gain the huge production contracts, spending from company funds was limited.

Lockheed reported in early 1999 that it would incur US$100 million more in costs than contract limitations allowed. Some US$30 million of the increase was ascribed to an "accounting error." Another US$60 million to US$70 million came from underestimates of costs associated with JSF technology. About US$30 million of this figure was attributed to an increase in the cost to Allison of developing lift-fan technology.

Workshare splits as of the turn of the century placed Lockheed in the prime position, with Northrop Grumman gaining about 17 percent of the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) load and BAE Systems taking 12 percent. Lockheed designed and built the wing and forward fuselage and oversaw airframe, avionic and weapons system integration. Northrop Grumman was responsible for the center fuselage and weapons bay doors while BAE handled the aft fuselage and tail group as well as the wing folding for the carrier-based and STOVL variants.

First flight for the X-35A was planned for summer 2000 and for the X-35B in fall 2000. Lockheed Martin won the contract to build the Joint Strike Fighter, redesignated the F-35, in October 2001. Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems and Pratt & Whitney are the major subcontractors.

By 2006, projections called for the acquisition of 1,763 F-35A and 680 Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, although those numbers were regarded as optimistic in view of the likely elongation of the low-rate initial production (LRIP) phase.

Cost projections soared after the initial JSF award in 2001. In 2002, total program cost was estimated at US$202 billion (base year). After several course changes and stretch-outs and a costly 2004 admission that STOVL aircraft weight had climbed too high, that figure climbed to US$276 billion by mid-2006.

As of the end of 2006, Lockheed Martin was well into the 126-month system design and development (SDD) phase with an estimated cost of US$19 billion. A total of 21 aircraft were to be produced during the SDD: seven non-flying for static test, six CTOL, four STOVL and four carrier versions.

The enlistment of other nations into the SDD phase was considered an important means of spreading the development cost. The individual contributors were credited with about 15 percent of the total. Each foreign partner was rated at a level commensurate with its financial stake. The SDD phase accumulated the following commitments (by level and projected purchases):  

  Tier       Country             Commitment       Number planned
   1         United Kingdom      US$2 billion           138
   2         Italy               US$1 billion           131
   2         Netherlands         US$800 million          85
   2         Turkey              US$175 million         100
   2         Australia           US$150 million         100
   2         Denmark             US$125 million          48
   2         Norway              US$125 million          85
   2         Canada              US$100 million          88

  SCP        Israel               US$35 million         100
  SCP        Singapore

Most of the international partners have struggled with concerns about workshare, rising costs, delays and limitations on the level of sophistication in exported software. A report by the Dutch Court of Audit in the fall of 2006 gave cautious approval to continuing in the production, sustainment and follow-on development (PSFD) JSF program, but described it as risky. Nevertheless, the Netherlands government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in mid-November 2006. Other countries followed shortly thereafter -- including Canada on Dec. 11, 2006. Despite a strong current of dissent from several influential retired Australian military and defense analysts, Canberra signed the MoU on Dec. 12. The U.K. signed its MoU on the same day, after gaining assurances that the British aircraft would fall entirely under British control.

Low-rate production of 456 aircraft was expected to begin in late 2006, but continuing concerns with cost led to revisions. One suggestion involved cutting 72 planes from LRIP and moving them to the first multi-year procurement (MYP) phase. Thus, LRIP would be no larger than 384 aircraft. The U.S. fiscal 2007 budget request saw cuts in actual procurement (from five aircraft to two). Advanced procurement for 12 additional F-35s to be purchased in fiscal 2008 was funded.

Lockheed Martin hoped for an unprecedented "ramp up" during low-rate production because there were so many customers (the three U.S. services, the U.K. and Australia) hoping for deliveries early in the run. The fiscal 2006 LRIP was funded at 10 aircraft, with plans for 13 in fiscal 2007; 19 in fiscal 2008; and up to 50 beginning in fiscal 2009. Instead, the consortium was looking at 12 in fiscal 2007 and nine in fiscal 2008 in the best case, and nine in fiscal 2007 and five in fiscal 2008 under other scenarios.


On March 12, 2008, the F-35 completed its first aerial refueling test with a KC-135 tanker over North Texas. The flight marked the beginning of two weeks of in-flight refueling trials.

On May 12, 2008, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said that Ottawa had trimmed its requirement for new fighters from 80 to 65 aircraft. Canada was expected to purchase the F-35 to meet that requirement, although no official decision had been made at the time.

In May 2008, Lockheed received the second F-35 low-rate initial production contract worth US$2.2 billion. At the time, the Dept. of Defense authorized work on six F-35A aircraft worth US$933 million and gave provisional approval for six F-35B fighters pending certain requirements. On May 14, 2008, US$197 million in long-lead funding for LRIP-3 was released, covering 19 F-35s.

On July 31, 2008, Lockheed Martin announced that the Pentagon had released US$1 billion in funding for the purchase of six F-35B STOVL aircraft under the second F-35 low-rate initial production contract. The F-35B made its first flight on June 11 and a propulsion system review was completed on July 22, paving the way for the release of the funds. The government had previously released US$158 million in July 2007 for long-lead items on the 12 LRIP 2 aircraft, with an additional US$110 million for sustainment, which was expected to be authorized in the fourth quarter of 2008.

In August 2008, problems with the F135 engine and other issues were reported, which forced delays in the beginning of "build-down" flight tests that were to precede the demonstration of the F-35B's short takeoff/vertical landing capability. The sequence of 20 flights was planned for the first quarter of 2009. However, the testing was postponed until the second quarter of 2009. The first F-35B, BF-1, was expected to complete a few additional sorties and then remain grounded until ready for the build-down tests, along with the second test aircraft, BF-2. At the same time, AA-1, the pre-2005 design F-35A aircraft, was grounded due to cooling problems, but was scheduled to go to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before the end of 2008 for noise testing, following concerns by some customers that they may have to relocate fighter bases because of the F-35's noise level. Such delays were expected to leave the program with fewer than 100 test flights completed by the end of the first quarter of 2009, with more than 98 percent of planned flights remaining.

Also in August 2008, it was reported that Lockheed Martin expected to make firm offers to the eight partner nations, the U.K., Italy, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Turkey, in exchange for a commitment by all eight for aircraft numbers and delivery dates. The measure would provide the partners with firm prices several years before normally possible under U.S. procurement rules. The move was seen necessary because competitors were offering fixed prices and some customers needed many of their aircraft from early production batches, which generally cost more. The commitments would be backed by sanctions, in which partners who did not purchase according to the program of record would cover the costs incurred by other partners, according to Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, the F-35 program office director. The final price was under discussion at the time, but a flyaway cost of between US$58 million and US$63 million was expected.

On Aug. 27 and 28, 2008, test aircraft BF-1, an F-35B, made its first afterburner takeoff and first in-flight opening of doors associated with the lift system. The doors covering the three-bearing swiveling nozzle were the first to be opened in flight, though the nozzle was not deployed. At the time, BF-2 was set to begin ground tests, ahead of its first flight expected in early 2009. The first F-35, AA-1, was expected to return to flight in early September 2008. The aircraft had been grounded after the failure of nacelle vent fans, which pump cooling air between the engine and the airframe.

On Sept. 26, 2008, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a potential Foreign Military Sale of F-35 aircraft to Israel. The possible sale included 25 F-35As, with options for another 50 aircraft in either the CTOL or STOVL configuration. The Israeli aircraft would include external fuel tanks, which at the time were not expected to be cleared for U.S. or other F-35As. The proposed sale would be worth up to US$15.2 billion if all options were exercised. Talks on the sale were underway by November 2008.

On Oct. 1, 2008, Italy informed the Netherlands, U.K. and U.S. that it would not take part in the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) phase of the F-35 program or the purchase of initial test aircraft in 2008. The Italian government said it remained supportive of the program and committed to participating in the system development and demonstration phase.

On Nov. 13, 2008, the F-35 made its first supersonic flight. Aircraft AA-1 achieved speeds of Mach 1.05 with a full internal load of inert weapons during the one-hour flight over North Texas. The aircraft spent a total of eight minutes in supersonic flight at a height of 30,000 ft (9,100 m). The flight was part of the effort to expand the F-35's flight envelope out to a top speed of Mach 1.6 with a full internal load of 5,400 lb (2,450 kg). The flight was the 69th for AA-1, the first F-35 built.

On Nov. 20, 2008, the Norwegian government announced the selection of the F-35 as its choice for its multi-role fighter program. The F-35 beat out the Saab Gripen NG due to its superior intelligence and surveillance, counter-air, air-interdict and anti-surface warfare capabilities, according to Norwegian officials. Officials also said that Lockheed offered the fighter at a lower price than Saab, an assertion that surprised many analysts. One defense ministry source said that Oslo would pay US$2.5 billion for 48 aircraft at a unit price of US$52 million. The first aircraft would be delivered to Norway in 2016.

In November 2008, analysts noted that the F-35 team would need to rapidly accelerate flight testing to meet the goal of completing 5,100 test sorties by the mid-2014 target for concluding operational testing. At the same time, the program called for the purchase of 362 fighters during low-rate initial production, all of which were to be ordered before operational testing was completed. The simultaneous pursuit of both testing and production raised the program's risk, given that design changes resulting from lessons learned during testing must be retrofitted to aircraft that are already completed or under construction, which is generally expensive. At the same time, the initial operational capability (IOC) targets for the Marines and Air Force remained the same, mid-2012 and mid-2013, respectively. To reach this goal, the Marines expected to receive their first training aircraft in 2010 and fill the fleet readiness squadron in 2011.

On Dec. 18, 2008, the Dutch government announced that the F-35 best met its requirements for its program to replace the F-16 . Officials said the Lightning II was the best multi-role combat aircraft; would be able to carry out the six required missions by 2015; had the greatest operational availability; lowest capital costs; and was expected to have the lowest life-cycle costs. The announcement paved the way for the purchase of two test aircraft, which was slated to take place no later than April 2009. Analysts noted that since the F-35 was in the very early stages of flight testing and would not enter service for another seven years at best, it was unclear what criteria were used to determine that the aircraft offered the best operational availability and lowest capital and life-cycle costs.

On Dec. 19, 2008, Lockheed Martin rolled out the first weight-optimized CTOL variant of the F-35, designated AF-1 . Lockheed had already produced three weight-optimized F-35B STOVL aircraft. The aircraft were structurally identical to the production F-35s that were to be delivered beginning in 2010, according to the company. The weight-optimized model was the result of a 2004 weight-reduction program that led to structural revisions to all three F-35 variants. AF-1 was also the first aircraft to utilize the moving assembly line at its full-rate production speed of 50 in (127 mm) per hour.

In late December 2008, the Norwegian government formally submitted to Parliament the bill for F-35 procurement. The document indicated that Oslo expected to start phasing the fighter into service between 2016 and 2020.


The F-35B aircraft engaged its STOVL propulsion system for the first time during a test flight on Jan. 7, 2010. The trial was the first in a series of planned STOVL-mode flights that were to include short takeoffs, hovers and vertical landings. During the nearly hour-long flight, the aircraft climbed to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) and engaged the propulsion system at 210 knots (288 mph), then slowed to 180 knots (207 mph) with the system engaged before accelerating to 210 knots and converting back to conventional flight mode. The STOVL propulsion system was engaged for a total of 14 minutes during the flight, according to a Lockheed release.

Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief, said on Jan. 20, 2010, that the Pentagon was slowing testing and acquisition of F-35s to reduce concurrency between testing and production and allow for more testing time. The Air Force still planned to achieve initial operational capability in 2013, he said.

In January 2010, it was reported that the U.K. might reduce its planned purchase of F-35 fighters. As a result of significant defense budget cuts, defense officials were considering reducing the British order from 140 to 70 aircraft. The possibility of splitting that order between F-35A and F-35B aircraft was also said to be under consideration.

In late February 2010, U.S. Air Force officials acknowledged that an operational F-35 capability would not be achieved until 2015.

The F-35B STOVL variant hovered at zero airspeed for the first time on March 17, 2010, at NAS Patuxent River. The aircraft hovered for about 96 seconds. During this period, it moved up and down and rotated left and right to check maneuverability, according to a Lockheed spokesman. The landing on a 95-ft square pad demonstrated that the aircraft had the thrust and control to maneuver accurately in free air as well as in the descent through ground effect, said company officials.

On April 2, 2010, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) was activated as the Marine Corps training squadron at Eglin Air Force Base. The squadron was the first for the F-35. The unit was scheduled to receive its first of 20 F-35Bs over the following year to begin training for pilots and maintainers.

Lockheed announced on April 7, 2010, that the first mission systems-equipped F-35 had conducted its maiden flight at the company's facility in Fort Worth, Texas. During the nearly hour-long flight, the aircraft flew to 15,000 ft (4,700 m), verified engine response at varying throttle settings, performed a series of flight-qualities maneuvers and checked the operation of the aircraft's mission systems. The full mission systems suite includes the AN/APG-81 radar; electro-optical targeting system (EOTS); electro-optical distributed aperture system (EO-DAS ); BAE Systems electronic warfare system; VSI helmet-mounted display system (HMDS); Northrop Grumman integrated communication, navigation and identification (ICNI) system; Lockheed Martin integrated core processor (ICP); inertial navigation system (INS); and GPS .

The mission systems-equipped F-35B aircraft, designated BF-4, was slated to start testing with the mission suite and then integrate the remaining sensors as testing moved forward, according to Lockheed officials. BF-4's test objectives included providing data for mission systems Block 0.5 functionality; evaluating hardware and software implementation and integration; and providing data to support mission systems component development. The Block 0.5 software incorporated air-to-air search and synthetic aperture radar modes, identification friend/foe transponder, integrated UHF/VHF radios, electronic warfare radar warning receiver and navigation functions.

On June 6, 2010, the F-35C made its maiden flight from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. The initial flight lasted 57 minutes.

On June 10, 2010, the F-35B became the first U.S. STOVL aircraft to fly past the sound barrier. The BF-2 test aircraft achieved a speed of Mach 1.07 (727 mph, 1,170 kmh) at an altitude of 30,000 ft over an offshore supersonic test track near NAS Patuxent River. The milestone was reached on BF-2s 30th test flight. Lockheed officials said 21 unique test points were achieved during the flight, including validation of roll, pitch, yaw and propulsion performance. Further testing would gradually expand the flight envelope to a top speed of Mach 1.6.

The Naval Air Systems Command on July 6, 2010, awarded Lockheed Martin a US$522 million contract for long lead materials and work associated with the production and delivery of 42 LRIP Lot 5 F-35s. The deal covered materials for 22 F-35A aircraft for the Air Force; 13 F-35Bs for the Marines; and seven F-35Cs for the Navy. Work under the deal was scheduled to be completed in May 2011.

By early July 2010, the F-35 test program had completed 146 flights compared with 128 planned. Additionally, 1,438 test points had been achieved over the 1,255 planned. Lockheed officials said that if the pace continued, the program would be at about where it was supposed to be by the end of 2009.

On July 16, 2010, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay announced that Ottawa planned to spend about US$8.5 billion to buy 65 F-35s.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Aug. 15, 2010, approved the purchase of 20 F-35 fighters for the air force. The order was expected to be worth US$2.7 billion, with deliveries expected between 2015 and 2017. Flyaway cost was about US$96 million each. Israel agreed to purchase the aircraft without its own systems installed. The air force had demanded the ability to install Israeli systems, which had complicated negotiations. U.S. officials said that if Israel were to buy more F-35s it would be allowed to install its own systems on those aircraft. A letter of offer and acceptance for the planes was signed on Oct. 7, 2010, in New York City. The order made Israel the first non-partner country to receive the jets through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program.

Lockheed Martin reached an agreement with the Dept. of Defense on Sept. 21, 2010, for 32 F-35s under LRIP Lot 4. The contract was expected to be worth more than US$5 billion, although it had not yet been formally signed. Officials from both sides said the aircraft cost as much as 20 percent less than a Pentagon prediction of US$76 million in December 2009. The deal included one aircraft for the Netherlands and one for the U.K.

The Norwegian government on Sept. 25, 2010 announced it would buy four F-35s in 2016 for training. Orders for another 16 F-35s would be delayed by two years to 2018. Oslo originally planned to buy as many as 48 aircraft from 2016 to 2020.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced in October 2010 that the U.K. would not purchase the F-35B model. Instead, the government was considering the F-35C carrier variant, which was expected to be cheaper than the F-35B. However, in March 2012, Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35 program manager, said the U.K. was reconsidering this decision due to the cost of modifying the QUEEN ELIZABETH -class carriers for F-35C operations. A review was expected to be completed by early April 2012.

On Nov. 5, 2010, Block 1 avionics software started flight testing aboard an F-35B BF-4 test jet. The software was the first of three principal software-development blocks for F-35 mission systems. The Block 1 software enabled most of the primary sensors on the fighter and formed the foundation of all subsequent software blocks. It enabled information fusion from the F-35's radar, electronic warfare system, distributed aperture system, electro-optical targeting system and other sensors; it also provided initial weapons-release capability. The software had been undergoing airborne testing aboard the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed since May 2010.

Lockheed Martin announced on Nov. 19, 2010, that it had received a $3.5 billion contract for 31 F-35s under the fourth LRIP lot. The deal also covered manufacturing-support equipment, flight test instrumentation and ancillary mission equipment. Including previous long-lead funding, the total LRIP-4 contract was US$3.9 billion. The award covered 10 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force; 16 F-35Bs for the Marines; four F-35Cs for the Navy; and one F-35B for the U.K. The Netherlands also had an option to procure an F-35A, according to a Lockheed release.

Lockheed said the F-35 program achieved its 2010 goal of 394 test flights on Dec. 9, 2010. At that point, a total of 531 flights had been completed since the first flight of the AA-1 demonstrator on Dec. 15, 2006.


The Turkish Defense Industry Executive Committee decided in January 2012 to order an initial batch of two F-35A fighters as part of plans to replace the air force's aging fleet of F-4 Phantoms. The aircraft were scheduled to be delivered in 2015. Ankara had plans to buy up to 100 aircraft, but cost growth had hindered the acquisition.

Lockheed Martin delivered the first two F-35Bs to the U.S. Marine Corps at Eglin Air Force Base on Jan. 11, 2012. The aircraft were assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing's Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 501 residing with the host 33rd Fighter Wing. BF-6 and BF-8 were the first two F-35 deliveries in 2012 and the seventh and eighth Lightning II aircraft delivered to Eglin AFB since July 2011. The earlier deliveries were F-35As. Marine pilots were expected to begin training at Eglin in August 2012.

In January 2012, the director of operational test and evaluation released a report on F-35 testing over the previous year. The report said the program demonstrated "mixed" results. The three variants matched or exceeded the program's restructured plan for tests designed to evaluate flying qualities. Test flights to demonstrate combat systems, such as navigation, enemy identification and targeting, fell behind 11 percent for the Air Force and 9 percent for the Marine Corps versions. The Navy variant was 32 percent ahead of schedule, according to the report. The three variants exceeded by 105 the 812 test flights planned for 2011. The flight program exceeded by 570 the number of planned flying events. It exceeded by 56 the 133 flights devoted to testing mission systems, the report said.

However, the program reportedly demonstrated little mission systems capability in flight and had not delivered some of its intended initial training capability, including effective and consistent radar performance. The 63 aircraft produced under Lockheed's first four initial production contracts "will require significant numbers of structural modifications and upgrades to attain the planned service life" and full combat capability, the study said.

Defense News for Jan. 16, 2012, reported that the F-35's low-observable coatings were proving to be as rugged as the designers predicted. A Marine Corps spokesman said that there were no indications that maintaining the coatings would be any more difficult than regular maintenance. The Navy version had completed hard field carrier landing practice runs and full-power catapult shots at NAS Lakehurst, N.J., without any degradation of aircraft seams or surfaces, officials said.

In February 2012, the Italian government said it would reduce its planned order for F-35 fighters from 131 to 90 aircraft. The cut was part of an overall reduction in Italy's military spurred by a 28 percent budget reduction that year. Officials said that Italy expected to receive its first three F-35As in 2014, which would be used to certify the final assembly and checkout facility at Cameri air base in northern Italy.

On Feb. 14, 2012, the Dept. of Defense relaxed the performance requirements for the F-35 program, according to an Inside Defense report. The new benchmarks enabled the F-35A to exceed its previous combat radius and provided the F-35B with 10 percent additional runway length for short takeoffs, according to Pentagon officials.

To extend the F-35A's combat radius, the JROC agreed to a less-demanding flight profile that assumed near-ideal cruise altitude and airspeed, factors that permit more efficient fuel consumption. This would allow the estimate to be extended to 613 nm (1,135 km).

The short-takeoff-and-landing key performance parameter (KPP) was 550 ft (168 m) prior to the JROC review. In April 2011, the Pentagon estimated that the STOVL variant could execute a short takeoff in 544 ft (166 m) while carrying two JDAMs and two AIM-120 missiles internally, as well as enough fuel to fly 450 nm (833 km). By February 2012, however, that takeoff distance estimate had grown to 568 ft (173 m), DoD officials said. The JROC, accordingly, agreed to extend the required distance to 600 ft (183 m).

On Feb. 23, 2012, Lockheed Martin said the flight test plan for 2012 called for 1,001 test flights and 7,873 test points. At that point, the program had completed 114 test flights and achieved 773 test points. The F-35A had completed 46 flights; the F-35B, 45; and the F-35C, 23. Three F-35s had also been delivered.

Lockheed received a US$38.6 million modification on March 12, 2012, to a previously awarded LRIP-6 contract to provide additional funding for the procurement of long lead items for F-35A fighters for the U.S. Air Force, Australia and Italy.

An analysis by the French website, published on March 13, 2012, found the unit cost for F-35s ordered under the LRIP-V batch had passed the US$200 million mark. The analysis covered all of the LRIP-5 contracts, including long lead items, airframes, non-recurring requirements and engines for a total of US$6.3 billion, or a unit cost of US$203.4 million. The aforementioned March 12 award for LRIP-5 added another US$1.9 million to the cost of each aircraft. That did not include the cost of the modifications, retrofits and upgrades needed to bring the aircraft to their final configuration once flight testing and development was completed. The unit cost was determined to be US$172 million for the F-35A; US$291.7 million for the F-35B; and US$235.8 million for the F-35C.

On March 28, 2012, acting Undersecretary for Acquisition Frank Kendall signed an acquisition decision memorandum approving the ongoing development phase and continuation of low-rate initial production contracts. The memo indicated that full-rate production would be pushed back two years to 2019 and set the target costs for all three variants at that time. The objective unit recurring flyaway costs in inflation-adjusted then-year dollars were as follows: US$83.4 million for the F-35A, down from US$152.2 million in the fourth production contract with Lockheed; US$108.1 million for the F-35B, down from US$172.4 million; and US$93.3 million for the F-35C, down from US$210.6 million.

The Pentagon also estimated that the total cost to develop, buy and operate the F-35 would reach US$1.45 trillion over more than 50 years. Analysts noted that more than a third of the projected operating cost represented inflation, which is nearly impossible to predict over 50 years. Based on calculations made by the Cost Assessment Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, the total included operating and maintenance costs of US$1.11 trillion, including inflation, and development and procurement costs of US$332 billion.

On March 30, 2012, Lockheed received a US$39 million contract modification to update the design, verification and test of the Joint Strike Fighter partner version air system development under the JSF Delta System Development and Demonstration program. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in October 2014.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$258.8 million contract for two LRIP Lot 5 aircraft on April 13, 2012. The deal covered an F-35A for the U.S. Air Force and an F-35C for the Navy. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed by February 2014.

Lockheed received a pair of contracts on April 24, 2012, for upgrades to LRIP Lot 2 and Lot 3 aircraft. One contract worth US$68.2 million covered changes to the configuration baseline hardware and software for LRIP Lot 2 aircraft from F-35 developmental work. The award covered changes to Air Force F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing and Marine Corps F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft. The Air Force component was worth US$37.7 million and the Marine component US$30.6 million.

Another deal, worth US$45.9 million was for the same changes for LRIP Lot 3 aircraft, including Marine Corps and U.K. F-35B aircraft. The Marine component was worth US$37.5 million and the British $10.2 million.

On April 30, 2012, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced a potential sale to Japan of an initial batch of four F-35A fighters, with options for another 38. The possible deal, worth an estimated US$10 billion, included 42 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines and five spares; electronic warfare systems; command, control, communication, computers and intelligence/communication, navigational and identification (C4I/CNI) systems; autonomic logistics global support system (ALGS); autonomic logistics information system (ALIS); flight mission trainer; weapons employment capability; F-35 unique infrared flares; reprogramming center; and F-35 performance-based logistics. Also included were software development/integration, flight-test instrumentation, aircraft ferry and tanker support, spare and repair parts, support equipment and related logistics support.

On May 3, 2012, the Australian government announced that it would postpone its acquisition of 12 F-35s for two years to save money. A decision on the procurement was to be made in 2014-2015 instead of later in 2012, said Defense Minister Stephen Smith. Australia had committed to buy two F-35As, which would be used for ground and aircrew training in the United States. Plans called for the purchase of 12 more aircraft under Project Air 6000 Phase 2A, and then another 58 under Phase 2B. The government hoped to save US$1.6 billion as a result of the decision.

The 200th test flight with the F-35B was conducted over an Atlantic Ocean test range on May 3, 2012. The flight measured stresses on the aircraft during supersonic maneuvers, according to the Naval Air Systems Command.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$237.7 million contract on May 7, 2012, for configuration changes needed on the 32 LRIP Lot 4 aircraft being built. The modification "increases the concurrency cap" for all three F-35 variants. "The concurrency cap establishes the threshold at or under which the contractor is obligated to incorporate government-authorized changes," according to a Pentagon release. The U.S. Navy covered US$153.2 million of the cost; the Air Force, US$69.4 million; the U.K., US$8.2 million; and the Netherlands, US$6.9 million.

Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35 program manager, told the Senate on May 8, 2012, that several fixes were in the works for the jet's helmet systems. A micro-inertial measurement unit was expected to fix jitter issues, while signal-processing changes in the software and the architecture could fix problems with lag. A camera installed on the helmet would also be improved to resolve acuity and night-vision issues, Venlet said. Demonstration of the fixes was scheduled to begin later in 2012 and continue through 2013.

On May 10, 2012, the British Defense Ministry announced that it would not buy F-35C carrier variant aircraft but revert to the original plan to purchase F-35B STOVL fighters. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said that sticking with the F-35C variant would have delayed carrier strike capabilities by at least three years to 2023; the cost of outfitting the QUEEN ELIZABETH -class aircraft carriers with catapults and arresting gear had doubled to 2 billion pounds (US$3.2 billion); and that the STOVL aircraft would enable the U.K. to have an aircraft carrier available continuously. Britain was scheduled to receive its first F-35B in the summer of 2012 and begin flight trials off a carrier in 2018.

On May 31, 2012, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Fort Worth, Texas, a $19.8 million modification under the low-rate initial production Lot 4 F-35 contract for a Joint Strike Missile risk-reduction study to be completed for the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. The project included physical fit checks, wind tunnel tests, engineering analysis, and designing and building of an emulator and adapter to determine next steps in integrating the JSM into the F-35 Lightning II. Work was scheduled to be completed by May 2014.

On June 15, 2012, the Norwegian government said it had authorized the purchase of the first two of as many as 52 F-35As. The procurement was given the green light after Washington expressed support for the integration of the Norwegian Joint Strike Missile with the F-35. Government officials said another two aircraft would be authorized in 2016 and would be based in the U.S. as part of a joint training center. The procurement program was estimated to be worth US$10 billion.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$489.5 million contract on June 15, 2012, for the acquisition of long lead-time parts, material and components for 35 F-35s to be purchased under low-rate initial production Lot 7. The deal covered components for 19 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force, three for Italy and two for Turkey; six F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps and one for the U.K.; and four F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy. The award also covered long lead-time efforts needed for the incorporation of a drag chute on the F-35A as required by Norway. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in June 2013.

On June 29, 2012, the Japanese Ministry of Defense said that it had agreed to purchase the first four of 42 F-35s at a cost of US$127.8 million each, as well as two simulators and spare parts, for a total cost of US$751 million. The unit cost was US$3.7 million higher than the US$124.1 million agreed to in December 2011 when the ministry initially selected the F-35.

Lockheed Martin announced on July 10, 2012, that it had delivered four F-35 fighters since June 29, bringing the number of operational aircraft in the fleet above the number of test aircraft for the first time. Lockheed delivered nine aircraft in 2012, bringing the total fleet to 30 aircraft. Sixteen of these were operational aircraft and 14 test planes. The latest deliveries were the first aircraft produced as part of low-rate initial production Lot 3. Three of the jets were F-35As and one was an F-35B.

On July 19, 2012, Lockheed Martin delivered the first F-35B to the U.K. during a ceremony at its facility in Fort Worth. British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said that London would order a fourth F-35B in 2013, which would be the first production-standard aircraft intended for training. The first three U.K. aircraft were for test and evaluation missions. The second evaluation aircraft for the U.K. was scheduled to be handed over in August 2012 and the third in early 2013. The fourth aircraft was expected to be delivered in 2015 or 2016.

The Dept. of Defense reached an agreement with Lockheed Martin in July 2012 to enhance the electronic warfare equipment of the F-35 and integrate unique Israeli systems beginning in 2016. A US$450 million contract was to be finalized shortly thereafter. The accord enabled Israeli companies to increase their participation in the program. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was expected to begin building wings for the F-35. It also allowed Israel to install its own radio and data link systems and other equipment on its aircraft.

BAE Systems announced on Aug. 8, 2012, that it had completed static testing on the F-35 aircraft designated AG-1. The testing involved more than 150 different loading configurations in just over nine months. The aircraft had spent nearly 3.5 years at BAE's structural test facility at Brough in Yorkshire.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed a US$206.8 million contract modification on Aug. 28, 2012, for development of the Israeli variant of the F-35A. The deal covered system development and demonstration phase 1 increment 1 for the F-35A for Israel, including development of hardware and software from initial requirements development to preliminary design review. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in May 2016. Israel's aircraft were expected to be delivered as part of low-rate initial production Lot 8 in 2016.

On Oct. 9, 2012, Lockheed received a US$28.6 million contract modification that provided additional funds for long lead-time parts, material and components to protect the delivery schedule for four low-rate initial production Lot 7 F-35A fighters for Italy. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in June 2013.

Flight International reported on Nov. 6, 2012, that Air Force pilots and maintainers operating the F-35 had indicated that the aircraft was performing better than its predecessors at a similar stage of development. The F-35 had proved to be relatively stable in terms of maintenance, said Col. Andrew Toth, the commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing. Occasional issues on the ground required shutting the aircraft down and then restarting it. Once airborne, the F-35 experienced "very limited" issues with hardware, software and the F135 engine, the colonel said. Maintainers also said the F-35 was "way ahead" of where the F-22 was at the same point, in terms of the software and aircraft. The F-35's stealth coatings were also said to be much easier to work with than those on the Raptor . Cure times for coating repairs were lower and many of the fasteners and access panels were not coated, reducing the workload for maintenance crews. According to Lockheed Martin, some F-35 radar-absorbent materials were baked into the jet's composite skin, which means the aircraft's stealthy signature was not easily degraded.

On Nov. 19, 2012, Lockheed Martin announced that an F-35A aircraft had rapidly expanded its high angle of attack (AOA) test envelope to its 50 degree limit in four flights during trials at Edwards AFB. F-35A test aircraft were limited to AOAs for 20 degrees until their controllability was proven at the higher 50-degree limit. Lockheed said the ability to rapidly move to the maximum AOA indicated a "sound aerodynamic and flight-control system design." High AOA testing was scheduled to continue for several more months covering all design loadings as well as the flight-control system.

Lockheed Martin formally delivered three F-35Bs to the U.S. Marine Corps at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., on Nov. 20, 2012. The aircraft were assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121). The delivery of the operational-coded fighters marked the beginning of STOVL tactical operational training at Yuma, according to a company release. The delivery brought the total number of F-35Bs delivered to the Marines to 16, and the total number of F-35s delivered in 2012 to 20. The aircraft were equipped with the Block 1B hardware and software configuration.

Bloomberg News reported on Nov. 30, 2012, that the Pentagon and Lockheed had reached an agreement in principle for a contract for the fifth low-rate initial production batch of F-35 fighters. The value of the expected deal was not disclosed, but was said to be worth up to US$4 billion. The contract covered 32 aircraft: 22 F-35As, three F-35Bs and seven F-35Cs.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Lockheed received a US$127.7 million contract modification to the previously awarded F-35 low-rate initial production Lot 5 award. The modification covered production requirements for 32 aircraft, including manufacturing support equipment; two program array assemblies; ancillary mission equipment, including pilot flight equipment; preparation for ferry of aircraft; and diminishing manufacturing sources redesign.

Aviation Week's Ares blog reported on Dec. 17, 2012, that Lockheed and the Pentagon had finally reached an agreement on terms for a US$3.8 billion deal for the fifth lot of low-rate production F-35s. The goal was to lower the price of each variant by 4 percent, said a Defense Dept. spokesman. Target per-unit airframe costs were US$105 million for the F-35A; US$113 million for the F-35B; and US$125 million for the F-35C. Pricing for F135 propulsion systems had not been finalized, the spokesman said.

The agreement also increased Lockheed's risk for cost overruns should they occur during production. The company was required to pay 55 percent of any overruns up to a ceiling of 112 percent of the target cost. Officials said the LRIP Lot 4 contract evenly split the cost of overruns. The Pentagon had paid US$136 million in concurrency costs for low-rate production Lots 1-3, or about US$4.86 million per aircraft. The two sides agreed to equally share the costs of retrofits to already produced aircraft that would be needed as a result of discoveries made during testing.

Prior to LRIP Lot 4, the Pentagon bore the cost of overruns during production. In 2011, the Defense Dept. said that had totaled US$771 million for those lots, averaging about US$27.5 million per aircraft, including concurrency costs.

Lot 5 deliveries were scheduled from August 2013 to May 2014. Lockheed noted that it had delivered 20 airframes in 2012, with another 10 awaiting paperwork for formal delivery.

The Air Education and Training Command (AETC) announced on Dec. 17, 2012, that the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB would begin training for Air Force F-35A pilots in January 2013. The authorization followed an evaluation of the aircraft and its pilot training and sustainment systems to ensure they were robust enough for the planned pilot transition and instructor upgrade courses. About 36 Air Force pilots were expected to complete the training in 2013.

On Dec. 28, 2012, Lockheed received a US$3.7 billion undefinitized contract modification to the previously awarded F-35 low-rate initial production Lot 6 advance acquisition contract, which covered 18 F-35As, six F-35Bs and seven F-35Cs. The modification also provided for all associated ancillary mission equipment. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in February 2015.


Flight International reported on Jan. 23, 2014, that the Navy planned to award multiple contracts to Lockheed Martin to develop the Block 4 software for the F-35. The first contract award was expected in October 2014. The Block 4 software would provide the F-35 with improved radar and electronic warfare systems and allow it to carry additional weapons. Aircraft with the software could carry joint standoff cruise missiles, including the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile , Small Diameter Bombs and AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II air-to-air missiles. The software would also add an automated ground collision avoidance system, better protection against cyber attacks and improvements to power and thermal management. The upgrade would enable the F-35 to carry speed-reducing drag chutes that deploy on landing, which would allow the aircraft to land on icy runways. The software block also supported streaming video from the electro-optical targeting system and improved target identification capabilities.

On Jan. 29, 2014, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$35.8 million contract modification to develop a universal armament interface capability in the F-35 software for ground testing with the SDB II. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in April 2018.

British officials said on Feb. 5, 2014, that financial approval for the main procurement of F-35B jets was expected in 2017. A decision for the purchase of the first 14 operational aircraft was also anticipated in the near future. These jets would be delivered in 2016 and assigned to 617 "Dambusters" Squadron. At the time, the U.K. had received two operational test aircraft and a training aircraft. Another operational test jet was expected to be ordered by the end of the year. London expected to declare initial operational capability (land) in December 2018. Operations from the first QUEEN ELIZABETH -class aircraft carrier were anticipated in 2018, with full operational capability (land and maritime) to be reached in 2023. The British program still called for the purchase of 138 aircraft, although the final number was expected to be determined during a 2015 defense review.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for Feb. 24, 2014, reported that the British Royal Air Force had agreed to a weapons-fit for initial operational capability for the F-35B, including the Paveway IV guided bomb internally and externally and the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM ) externally. Two other categories had been agreed with Lockheed for integration on British F-35Bs. The first, expected to be integrated in the medium term, covered the Storm Shadow cruise missile and an unspecified variant of the Brimstone guided weapon. Even further down the line, the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and Spear III guided weapon, a turbojet-powered version of the Brimstone , were expected to be added. Both weapons were still in development at the time. MBDA officials in December 2013, however, said that the RAF only intended to field the Spear III on the F-35B.

The Norwegian Ministry of Defense announced on March 4, 2014, that representatives of the British and Norwegian F-35 programs had signed a cooperation concept document. The document provided details on cooperation between the two countries for F-35 training and operations in Europe. Norwegian officials noted that it planned to continue to conduct fighter training in the U.S., but that there were opportunities for cooperation in the field with the British. The two countries said they expected to conduct joint pilot and maintainer training.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$8.5 million contract modification on March 20, 2014, for additional long lead-time work for the incorporation of a drag chute in F-35A jets for Norway. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in November 2015.

The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) formally announced on March 24, 2014, that Seoul would purchase 40 F-35s. The government set a budget of US$6.8 billion for the procurement, with a contract expected to be signed in the third quarter of 2014. Deliveries of the F-35s with Block 3F software were expected to run from 2018 to 2021. South Korea was also considering purchasing an additional 20 aircraft, which would likely be procured in 2023-2024.

On March 25, 2014, Lockheed received a US$698 million Navy contract for long lead parts and materials for 57 low-rate initial production Lot 9 F-35 aircraft. The production lot included 26 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force; six F-35Bs for the Marine Corps; two F-35Cs for the Navy; seven F-35As for Israel; six F-35As for Norway; six F-35Bs for the U.K.; one F-35A and one F-35B for Italy; and two F-35As for Japan. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in May 2015.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed a US$52 million contract modification on March 28, 2014, for the third phase of the F-35 Autonomics Logistics Information System (ALIS) standard operating unit version 2 (SOUv2) capability development effort. This phase included integration of the SOUv2 with the ALIS sustainment system and F-35 air system, according to a Pentagon release. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in August 2015.

Lockheed Martin announced on April 15, 2014, that the F-35 Lightning II fleet had recently surpassed 15,000 flight hours. As of April 7, 2014, operational F-35s had flown 8,050 hours, while system development and demonstration aircraft had flown 7,123 hours.

La Repubblica (Rome) reported on April 22, 2014, that the Italian government had decided to halve its procurement of F-35 fighters from 90 to 45. Implementation of the purchase would also be stretched in order to limit any losses of related work for Italian aerospace firms. The only change planned for the 2014 budget for the program was a reduction of 153 million euros (US$212 million). The six-aircraft order for 2014 would go ahead. The number of aircraft to be ordered by 2019 would fall from 40 to 29, saving more than 2 billion euros (US$2.8 billion), according to the newspaper.

On April 23, 2014, the Australian government announced that it would move forward with the purchase of an additional 58 F-35 aircraft. The total procurement was estimated at US$11.6 billion, including US$1.5 billion for new facilities and infrastructure at RAAF Williamtown in New South Wales and RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory. A total of 72 F-35s would be acquired, which would be formed into three operational squadrons and a training squadron. Australia retained an option to buy another squadron, which would bring the total fleet to near the initial target of 100 aircraft. Some analysts said the move could be an effort to placate critics of the program while the government found funds to buy the planned 90 aircraft, possibly by stretching orders out over another decade.

The Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) announced on May 6, 2014, that it had been authorized to order the first two F-35A fighters for the Turkish air force in the Block 3F configuration under low-rate initial production Lot 10. SSM was also responsible for establishing a final assembly and checkout line and depot level maintenance center for the F135 engine employing local industry and Turkish air force infrastructure. At the time, Turkey still planned to buy 100 F-35s. The first two aircraft would be based in the U.S. to support training activities for one year before transferring to the Malatya air base. Deliveries of additional F-35s were slated to take place at a rate of 10 per year, with a total of US$16 billion budgeted for the project, reported Flight International.

On May 10, 2014, Finmeccanica and Lockheed Martin signed an agreement covering net-centric warfare systems for Italy's planned 90 F-35s. The Italian government wanted to fund a study for the development of the technology, which would be conducted by the two defense firms. The goal was to turn the F-35 into a node in an Italian military network through data fusion, reported Defense News.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a contract modification on May 13, 2014, for the development of systems for Israel's F-35A aircraft. The deal, with a maximum value of US$101.9 million, covered non-recurring engineering and sustainment tasks for mission systems software and autonomic logistics development under the Foreign Military Sales program. It also covered the procurement of autonomic logistics hardware to support Israeli pilot training. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in April 2015.

Northrop Grumman announced on May 27, 2014, that it had demonstrated a unique communications capability enabling fifth-generation fighters, such as the F-22 and F-35, to share information through existing data links with fourth-generation fighters, such as the F-15 , F-16 and F/A-18 . The Jetpack system was demonstrated during test flights in March and April 2014 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and Edwards Air Force Base. During the April flight tests, Jetpack validated its ability to simultaneously link and translate both the F-22 's Intra-Flight Data Link and F-35's Multifunction Advanced Data Link to common Link 16 messages, according to a Northrop Grumman release. The system could be mounted internally or in an external pod.

The Air Force announced on June 2, 2014, that the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin AFB had become the service's first complete F-35A Lightning II squadron after receiving its 26th aircraft. The latest jet was equipped with Block 2A software and upgrades, including the use of simulated weapons, data links and night and instrument meteorological conditions flight capabilities.

Bloomberg News reported on June 23, 2014, that a new Pentagon report indicated that the projected cost to retrofit F-35 jets built in the first 10 production lots had fallen another US$100 million compared to a 2013 estimate. The estimate for modifications and fixes for aircraft produced through 2016 during development was US$1.65 billion, down from US$2.57 billion in 2012, according to an annual report to Congress. The cost reductions were attributed to fewer anticipated technical flaws as well as to Lockheed working with the Pentagon to manage the process and reduce time on the assembly line to retrofit jets, said the report. The latest estimates were also based less on computer models and more on the actual costs of implementing approved changes.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on June 30, 2014, that Rolls-Royce was to modify the lift-fan systems on F-35Bs already delivered to incorporate changes from flight testing and bring the jets to the required configuration for initial operational capability for the U.S. Marine Corps. The most significant change was new inlet guided vanes on the shaft-driven lift fan to remove low-temperature operating limitations. Company officials described the changes as "a number of minor tweaks." Other modifications covered lift-fan clutch cooling; roll-post actuator electronics; and the bearing configuration in the three-bearing swivel nozzle.

Lockheed Martin announced on July 10, 2014, that the Pentagon had finalized an agreement with the F-35 industrial team to implement cost-reduction initiatives aimed at reducing the price of an F-35 to the equivalent of fourth-generation fighters by 2019. The "Blueprint for Affordability" called for Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems to invest up to US$170 million in affordability measures from 2014 to 2016. Only after cost reductions would industry recoup the investment plus profit with the accrued savings from the initiatives, said a Lockheed release. The government had the option to invest additional funds from 2016 to 2018 if the initial programs were successful. The Pentagon would primarily realize savings through reduced F-35 unit recurring flyaway cost, said Lockheed. International partners would also benefit from the reduced costs.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for July 14, 2014, reported that Lockheed Martin and Israeli Elbit System's Cyclone subsidiary were in advanced negotiations for the development of an external fuel tank for the F-35. The companies were working on a 600-gal (2,271-liter) external fuel tank that could be carried during the non-stealthy part of a mission. After disposing of the tank, the attachment pylon could be stored internally, restoring full stealth capability.

Elbit subsidiary Elisra was also developing the electronic warfare pod for Israel's F-35Is. The external pod would reduce the aircraft's stealth. Accordingly, the Israeli air force planned to install those pods on only a few aircraft, reported Aviation Week. Israel had also been permitted to integrated Spice guided munitions on its F-35s. Rafael was completing development of a Spice kit that would fit in the jet's payload bays. The Israeli firm also wanted to integrate its future air-to-air missile, based on the Stunner interceptor, on the F-35. At the time, talks were still underway with the U.S.

The requirement to install Israeli-specific equipment on F-35Is could limit the potential for reductions from the US$145 million unit cost at the time, the magazine said.

Rockwell Collins reported on July 15, 2014, that in cooperation with Elbit Systems of America it had delivered the Gen 3 helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) for the F-35 to Lockheed Martin for software integration. The HMDS would be integrated with LRIP Lot 7 aircraft, according to a company release. The helmet system featured a binocular 40 degrees x 30 degrees field of view and a high-brightness, high-resolution display with integrated digital night vision. The HMDS also displays imagery from the Distributed Aperture System. The Gen 3 design featured improved optics, image device and backlight, enhanced head-tracking capability and the next-generation night-vision camera.

Lockheed Martin rolled out the first F-35A for Australia on July 24, 2014. It was to be contractually delivered to Canberra later in the year. The first two Australian jets would be deployed at the U.S. Air Force's Integrated Training Center at Luke AFB, for pilot and maintainer training. The initial F-35s were scheduled to arrive in Australia for the first time in 2018.

Flight International reported on Aug. 22, 2014, that Norway would receive a modular kit to equip its F-35s with drag chutes to assist with landings on Arctic runways after 2017. The chute was the first aftermarket modification to the jets through seven low-rate production lots. Testing on the chute was expected to begin in 2017. Until then, Norway would train in the U.S. with unmodified aircraft. Norway's first jets would be equipped with the Block 2B software configuration, which does not include the ability to deploy an arresting chute. The required hardware modifications, including airframe reinforcements, were being implemented on aircraft in low-rate production lots 7 and 8. The Block 3F software would permit chute deployment. This would be the standard configuration for all aircraft in lots 9 and beyond. The chute pod would be installed in a compartment in the center of the rear fuselage. On top of this is a large canoe fairing that opens on landing. Wind-tunnel testing showed that the pod could act like a miniature rudder. Norwegian jets will complete extensive flight testing with the pod. Data collected would be used to train pilots from other nations that buy F-35s with the drag chutes. Norway planned to keep its pods installed permanently. Other users might choose to remove them in warmer months. The compartment could also potentially be used for other systems.

On Sept. 1, 2014, the autonomic logistics information system (ALIS) version 2.0 started testing. It was expected to be deployed to all operational users in the first quarter of 2015, reported Flight International. The latest version introduced advanced fleet management for users to manage their entire F-35 fleet over the life of the aircraft. Previous versions only permitted fleet management at the squadron level. The system incorporates preventive maintenance monitoring; flight scheduling; and mission planning into a single software and hardware suite. The latest version featured increased download speeds of flight and maintenance data. Using a portable memory device, post-flight information can be obtained from the aircraft and processed in 15 minutes. Certification of a smaller expeditionary system for installation aboard ships was expected in March 2015 in order to support the Marine Corps goal of reaching an initial capability in the summer of 2015. The expeditionary version would later become the standard variant, officials said.

Flight International reported on Sept. 17, 2014, that Lockheed and its program partners were investing millions of dollars to redesign manufacturing methods for F-35 components in an effort to reduce production costs. The goal was to cut US$10 million annually from the jet's unit cost through 2019. Lockheed pledged that the F-35A would cost US$80 million or less by then. Around 600 projects were being developed "across the entire supply base" to streamline production and cut production costs, said company officials. Using additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, rather than forging and milling to produce a bowframe that crosses the canopy could save US$31.5 million. A redesign of the manufacturing process for the F-35's rudder spar components could produce nearly US$205 million in savings. A new method for painting fuselage panels while also conducting other manufacturing processes was expected to save US$27 million. Lockheed also decided to make some components from cheaper materials that met the structural integrity specifications. Redesigning the vertical tail ribs was expected to produce US$121 million in savings. Engineers determined that the ribs could be made from aluminum instead of more expensive titanium without reducing structural integrity, the company said.

Lockheed received a US$60 million Navy contract modification on Sept. 22, 2014, for long lead parts, materials and components in support of the procurement of four additional F-35A aircraft for Japan under the Foreign Military Sales program. The deal modified the previously awarded Lot 9 F-35 advance acquisition contract. Work was to be completed in February 2015.

The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on Sept. 24, 2014, that it would sign the letter of offer and acceptance for 40 F-35A jets later in the month. Under the deal, Lockheed Martin would transfer fighter production technologies in 17 areas for South Korea's KF-X indigenous fighter project, reported the Yonhap news agency. The deal was worth US$7 billion, with a unit cost of about US$114 million, according to a DAPA spokesman. Deliveries were slated to begin in 2018, said Lockheed.

Defense News reported on Oct. 15, 2014, that the F-35 program office had reached an agreement with Pratt & Whitney on identifying the root cause of an engine issue that caused a fire in June 2014 (see "Issues," below) and a contract for the next lot of engines. The cost of modifications to the F135 engine was included in the US$592 million contract for low-rate initial production Lot 7, which was awarded on Oct. 14, 2014. The lot covered 36 engines, including 19 for U.S. Air Force F-35As, six for Marine Corps F-35Bs and four for Navy F-35Cs, as well as associated management and support services. The company said Lot 7 reduced the average cost of the F-35A/C and F-35B engines by 4.5 percent. The average price for the 36 engines was US$18.8 million. A similar reduction was expected for Lot 8.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported on Oct. 17, 2014, that South Korea's F-35s would not be fully equipped for a potential conflict with North Korea due to the high cost of the jets. While Seoul had ordered 40 F-35As at a cost of US$6.9 billion, it had only acquired about 45 percent of the air-to-air missiles and 75 percent of the air-to-ground weapons needed, according to air force figures provided to lawmakers. About 66 percent of the budget for the fighter project was spent on the jets, with only 8 percent allocated for weapons and equipment. The air force was also criticized for buying only one backup engine for 40 jets rather than the standard four to six, or 10 to 15 percent as spares.

The Naval Air Systems Command on Oct. 22, 2014, awarded Lockheed Martin a US$110.5 million contract for the procurement and installation of 281 retrofit modification kits to incorporate into designated aircraft and supporting subsystems. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2018.

Also on Oct. 22, 2014, Lockheed Martin and Turkish missile maker Roketsan signed an agreement to produce and sell the Turkish SOM-J air-launched cruise missile for the F-35. The accord covered the development, production, marketing, sale and support of the SOM-J for internal carriage on the F-35 or external carriage on other aircraft. The SOM is an autonomous, long-range, low-observable, all-weather, high-precision cruise missile, according to a joint statement.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$220.7 million contract modification on Oct. 28, 2014. The deal covered the system development and demonstration phase Increment 2 in support of the F-35A aircraft for Israel under the Foreign Military Sales program. The award included the development and demonstration of the hardware and software for the Israeli system. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2019.

Pratt & Whitney received a US$793 million contract on Oct. 30, 2014, for the eighth lot of F135 engines for F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The award brought the total contract value to US$1.05 billion, including previous contracts for long lead items and sustainment. The Lot 8 contract covered 48 engines, including 19 F135-PW-100 engines for Air Force F-35As; six F135-PW-600s for Marine F-35Bs; and four F135-PW-100s for Navy F-35Cs. It also included 15 F135-PW-100s and four F135-PW-600s for international partners and Foreign Military Sales customers. The cost of engines for F-35A and F-35C jets had dropped by about 3.5 percent and 4.5 percent for F-35B engines from the previous lot, said Pratt & Whitney. The contract was awarded following the conclusion of an investigation into the root cause of an engine fire on an F-35A in June 2014 (see "Issues," below). Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2018.

On Nov. 3, 2014, an F-35C made its first arrested landing aboard USS NIMITZ off the coast of San Diego. The redesigned tailhook on the jet worked flawlessly during the landing, according to Naval Air Forces. The milestone was part of initial at-sea developmental testing for the F-35C, which was scheduled to last for two weeks. During the trials, two F-35Cs were to conduct a number of operational maneuvers, including catapult takeoffs and arrested landings; general maintenance and fit tests for the aircraft and support equipment; and simulated maintenance operations. The goal was to collect data to measure the F-35C's integration with flight deck operations and define the jet's operating parameters aboard aircraft carriers. The redesigned tail hook performed well during the trials.

On that same date, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$50 million contract modification for operational and engineering support to integrate the F-35 with the U.K.'s QUEEN ELIZABETH -class aircraft carriers. Work was to be completed in December 2017. noted that 80 percent of the cost was being paid by the F-35 Joint Program Office (involving all program partners), with the U.K. paying the remaining US$10.8 million.

USNI News reported on Nov. 4, 2014, that the U.S. had reached an agreement with other F-35 program partners to permit other customers to customize the mission data packages for their aircraft. The issue had been contentious between the U.S. and other partners. The U.S. has a policy of never sharing the source codes for its weapon systems. However, program partners called for the right to alter the data packages for their jets. The packages contain terrain, enemy threat and friendly force data for a particular region. A compromise had been reached in which partners would be able to do some of their own work in various labs, said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program manager. The U.S. Navy would also operate a mission data lab at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif. At the time, the Air Combat Command's reprogramming lab at Eglin AFB created all F-35 mission data packages. That limitation could also delay the Marine Corps goal to reach initial operational capability with the F-35B in July 2015, said Bogdan. The Corps required coverage for two different regions, likely the Middle East and Asia Pacific. One package would be ready for July 2015, but due to the lack of personnel and capacity the second package could be an issue. Additional reprogramming labs would alleviate some of the pressure on the Air Force lab. Partner nations would also build facilities to reprogram their F-35s in the U.S., said Bogdan. Foreign nations would not have unsupervised access to the F-35 and its mission systems, according to the program manager. The partners would be able to customize their aircraft for their regions and specific threats.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force stood up its first F-35 squadron on Nov. 4, 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base. The 323 Squadron was responsible for operational test and evaluation activities, which were slated to begin at Edwards AFB by the end of 2014. Dutch F-35s were scheduled to head to the Netherlands starting in 2019, according to the Dutch Ministry of Defense.

The U.S. Air Force reported on Nov. 17, 2014, that it had recently deployed four F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., to Eglin AFB for the unit's first operational integration training mission with the F-35A Lightning II. The training was designed to improve integrated employment of fifth-generation fighters and tactics. Both units were able to familiarize themselves with the jets in operational scenarios and obtain lessons to improve future exercises. The F-35s and F-22s flew joint offensive counter-air, defensive counter-air and interdiction missions.

On Nov. 21, 2014, the Dept. of Defense awarded Lockheed Martin a US$4.1 billion contract modification for the production of 43 low-rate production Lot 8 F-35s. The deal covered 29 F-35As: 19 for the U.S. Air Force; two for Italy; two for Norway; four for Japan; and two for Israel. The award was also for 10 F-35Bs (six for the U.S. Marine Corps and four for the U.K.) and four F-35Cs (three for the U.S. Navy and one for the Marine Corps).

Unit cost for the U.S. airframes was US$94.8 million for the F-35As; US$102 million for the F-35Bs; and US$115.7 million for the F-35Cs, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office. Engines are funded through separate contracts with Pratt & Whitney, noted the JPO release. Deliveries for the Lot 8 aircraft were scheduled to begin in the spring of 2016. Lockheed Martin said the average unit price for all three variants was about 3.6 percent lower than previous contracts. With the latest batch, a total of 209 F-35s had been ordered, the company said. A total of 115, including test aircraft, had been delivered.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on Nov. 24, 2014, that the Israeli Committee on Defense Procurement had reversed a decision by the air force to buy an additional 31 F-35s. In an unprecedented move, the committee reversed a requirement that had been approved by the defense minister, the former government and the National Security Council. The second batch of F-35s would consist of only 13 jets. Concerns about the F-35's stealth capabilities and performance contributed to the decision to limit the order.

The Israeli Cabinet on Nov. 30, 2014, authorized an immediate purchase of 14 additional F-35As, with an option to order another 17 jets in 2017, reported the Times of Israel. The order encompassed 13 operational aircraft and one that would be used for testing. The decision was made despite objections from some officials (see above). Deliveries of the 14 aircraft were slated to begin in 2019.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for Dec. 1, 2014, reported that the Block 4A and 4B software standards were scheduled for fielding in 2022 and 2024, respectively. Block 4A would include compatibility with the B61-12 GPS -guided nuclear bomb. Other potential improvements included external fuel tanks and data link compatibility with the Rover air-to-ground video transmission system. Conventional weapons that might be added were the AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missile; Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II); Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile; and the Joint Strike Missile .

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$97.8 million contract modification on Dec. 2, 2014, in support of the F-35 Lightning II program with Israel under the Foreign Military Sales program. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2022.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for Dec. 15, 2014, reported that the Marine Corps was moving to a new concept of operations for its F-35Bs. The concept featured mobile forward arming and refueling points (M-FARPS) that would support a small number of jets. The fighters would return to U.S. Navy amphibious ships, allied carriers, such as the British QUEEN ELIZABETH class , or regional land bases for regular maintenance. The plan addressed problems with earlier concepts that involved conducting sustained operations from amphibious warships and land-based forward bases. However, naval forces operating within 150 nm of a hostile coast would be vulnerable to land-based anti-ship missile systems. Under the new concept, the amphibious ships would be able to operate outside the range of coastal missiles because they were supporting assets rather than launch platforms. Meanwhile, large forward operating bases were considered vulnerable to guided missiles and rockets. The M-FARPs would relocate every 24 to 48 hours, which was estimated to be within an enemy's targeting cycle. Decoy M-FARPS would also be established to complicate enemy targeting. The shorter-range F-35Bs would be able to more rapidly provide operational support, generate more sorties and reach deeper into enemy territory than if they were based outside enemy missile range. The distributed STOVL operations (DSO) plan also envisaged using V-22 Ospreys as aerial refuelers. The concept was scalable from a handful of aircraft to multi-squadron forces, according to the Marine Corps.

The Netherlands Ministry of Defense announced on Dec. 15, 2014, that it planned to purchase a total of 37 F-35s, including two F-35As already delivered and five that would be dedicated as training assets. The ministry said it planned to order an initial batch of eight aircraft, with deliveries to begin in 2019. Eight aircraft would be delivered annually between 2019 and 2022, with a final three models to be handed over in 2023, reported Flight International. Initial operational capability was planned for 2021, with full operational capability to follow in 2024.

On Dec. 22, 2014, the U.S. Marine Corps received its first F-35C carrier variant. The aircraft was assigned to the U.S. Navy's VFA-101 squadron, the Grim Reapers, for pilot training. Five Marine F-35Cs were due to be delivered for VFA-101. The first operational Marine Corps F-35C fleet squadron, VMFA-115, was scheduled to be activated at MCAS Beaufort in 2019.

The jet was the 36th and final F-35 to be delivered in 2014. Lockheed Martin said at the time that it had delivered 109 operational aircraft to the U.S. and partner nations. Jane's Defence Weekly reported that the current Marine Corps plan called for replacing its AV-8B Harrier IIs to be replaced by 353 F-35Bs and its F/A-18 Hornets with 67 F-35Cs.


Lockheed Martin was awarded a US$28.2 million contract on Jan. 12, 2016, for modifications associated with the F-35A fuel tank overpressure engineering change proposal. The update would be applied to U.S. Air Force, Australian, Italian, Dutch and Norwegian aircraft. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2017.

The upgrade was needed because it was found that the fuel tanks could overpressurize "beyond design limits" in certain flight profiles, reported Flight International. The discovery was made during lightning protection qualification in late 2014 and confirmed during follow-on trials in 2015, said a spokesman for the Joint Program Office. The design issue affected all three F-35 variants and led to "precautionary flight limits" into 2015. In December 2015, the program successfully flight-tested new pressure relief valves that would eliminate the restrictions. Modification work would begin immediately on 41 F-35As under the contract issued on Jan. 12, 2016. The program office also said that a contract modification had already been made to retrofit F-35Bs with the relief valves. Lockheed was developing an engineering proposal to modify the F-35C. Additional F-35As would be upgraded using "concurrency funding" included in low-rate production contracts.

On Jan. 12, 2016, an F-35 fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile for the first time. The flight sciences aircraft, AF-1 , from the 461st Flight Test Squadron, participated in the test. The firing paved the way for the F-35 to employ the AIM-9X 's high off-boresight targeting capabilities.

Pratt & Whitney announced on Jan. 15, 2016, that it had reached an agreement in principle with the Pentagon for Lots 9 and 10 of F135 propulsion systems for all three F-35 variants. The agreement would support program affordability initiatives and continued price reductions, said a company release. Lot 9 covered 66 engines and Lot 10, 101. Total award value would be released when the contracts were finalized, said Pratt & Whitney. The company said that unit prices for the 53 Lot 9 and 87 Lot 10 conventional and carrier variant propulsions systems were 3.4 percent lower from the Lot 8 price to the negotiated Lot 10 price. The 13 Lot 9 and 14 Lot 10 STOVL propulsion systems, including lift systems, were cut 6.4 percent from Lot 8 to Lot 10, said the company. The contract would be worth more than US$3 billion, according to a source cited by Reuters.

Flight International reported on Jan. 18, 2016, that the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, which was slated to be the first F-35A squadron to gain operational status, would receive the latest Block 3I software on Feb. 1, 2016. The unit was also scheduled to drop an inert laser-guided bomb for the first time for tactical training rather than development or operational testing in February or March. The squadron was also scheduled to go to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, to demonstrate its deployability. The various activities were part of the process to achieve initial operational capability, which was expected on Aug. 1, 2016.

Defense One reported on Jan. 19, 2016, that the U.S. was relying on an emerging technology called cognitive electronic warfare (EW) to give the F-35 an advanced ability to find hard-to-detect air defenses and develop ways to defeat them on the fly. The jet's electronic warfare package would be key to its evolution and survival against the most advanced future anti-aircraft technology, according to military officials close to the program. Small elements of cognitive EW were already present on the F-35. One likely technology was electronic support measures (ESM) able to detect new signals. Conventional radars typically use fixed waveforms, making them easy to detect, learn about and develop tactics against. Newer digitally programmable radars can generate new waveforms, making them more difficult to defeat. At the time, the process for identifying a new waveform and developing a counter could take months or years of software development. The U.S. was trying to develop EW software the could perceive new waveforms and attacks as quickly and clearly as possible and then respond creatively to the threat.

On Jan. 21, 2016, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$9 million contract modification for the procurement and installation of additional retrofit kits supporting F-35 Block 3F and Navy initial operational capability engineering change proposals. Work was scheduled to be completed by August 2018.

MBDA in January 2016 delivered a test batch of ASRAAMs to the U.S. for integration with British F-35Bs. The weapon would be the first British missile to arm the F-35 within the system development and demonstration phase of the program, the company said. The test missiles would be used for flight trials and air-launched firings in 2016.

Combat Aircraft for February 2016 reported that the latest British Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) indicated that the second F-35B squadron (809 Naval Air Squadron) would receive aircraft earlier than previously planned and would be operational with 12 aircraft by 2023. Plans called for 42 aircraft to be delivered by 2023 to support 24 operational aircraft in two squadrons. The review emphasized British plans to buy 138 aircraft throughout the life of the program, although many would likely be purchased later on and could be used to replace part of the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet. At the time, the U.K. had taken delivery of four F-35Bs and the first 14 operational aircraft had been authorized, with 10 on order. The first four would be built under low-rate initial production Lot 8. Six more would follow in Lot 9. The full order for 138 was expected to be announced in 2017. Full operational capability for land-based and naval aircraft was anticipated for 2023.

Flight International reported on Feb. 2, 2016, that the operating costs for the F-35A had fallen 37.6 percent compared to 2014. According to Air Force cost-per-flight-hour figures, the F-35A cost US$42,200 to operate per hour in fiscal 2015, compared to US$67,500 in fiscal 2014. The jet also achieved a 68.6 percent mission-capable rate as the fleet grew to 51 aircraft. F-35As at Hill AFB had the highest availability rate of 80 percent, followed by F-35Cs at Eglin AFB at 79 percent. The fleet-wide average was 51 percent.

BAE Systems announced on Feb. 4, 2016, that it was set to begin a third phase of durability testing on an F-35 airframe. Each phase lasted 8,000 hours. Two complete airframe lifetimes, equivalent to 16,000 hours, had already been completed on the F-35A airframe. The trials demonstrated that the airframe would be able to safely handle the various flying conditions it could experience in operation.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$33.1 million contract modification on Feb. 9, 2016, exercising an option for engineering change proposals for low-rate production Lot 8 propulsion systems for the F-35. Work was to be completed in December 2018.

Flight International reported on Feb. 10, 2016, that F-35 program officials did not expect a U.S. Air Force proposal to reduce procurement of F-35A fighters from fiscal 2017 to 2021 to affect overall unit price by more than 1 percent. The program office indicated that there were 873 total F-35 orders from 2016 to 2021, down 20 aircraft from the fiscal 2016 plan. The planned ramp-up to 60 Air Force jets annually was being deferred from fiscal 2018 to 2021. The Air Force's plan to buy a total of 1,763 F-35As remained the same, said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program manager. Analysts noted that the F-35 still had 20 percent of developmental testing to complete and that the deferral of higher production rates could save on expensive modifications in the future. Bogdan said that there were still 419 technical deficiencies remaining, significantly less than two or three years previously. Major concerns included the ALIS and mission system software issues related to the radar, sensors and sensor fusion algorithms.

On that same date, Defense News reported that the F-35 program office was in final negotiations with Lockheed Martin on the ninth and 10th batches of the F-35. The office expected to reach a unit cost of US$80 million to US$85 million by 2019. Unit cost was anticipated to drop further after that because of larger purchases and the addition of international customers. A block buy from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2021 could provide over US$2 billion in savings, said Bogdan.

Lockheed Martin announced on Feb. 10, 2016, that the F-35 fleet had surpassed 50,000 flight hours earlier in the month. Operational jets flew about 37,950 hours, while system development and demonstration aircraft flew 12,050 hours, the company said in a release. More than one-third of the program's flight hours were completed in 2015. About 26,000 hours were flown by the F-35A; 18,000 hours by the F-35B; and 6,000 by the F-35C.

On Feb. 11, 2016, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed a US$81.4 million contract for the development of Block 4 modernization program capabilities in support of F-35A/B/C aircraft. The deal covered new and upgraded capabilities to maintain viability against evolving threats, reduce lifecycle costs and improve operational suitability, the Pentagon said in a release. Work was scheduled to be completed in May 2017.

On Feb. 22, 2016, Flight International reported that Israel could install an indigenous targeting and reconnaissance system in its F-35I Adir fighters. An evaluation at the time was focused on the potential installation of Rafael's Litening and Reccelite designs in place of the baseline electro-optical targeting system. If either system was selected, they could be redesigned for internal carriage on the F-35, according to Rafael officials.

Flight International reported on Feb. 23, 2016, that the 34th Fighter Squadron "Rude Rams," at Hill AFB the first operational F-35A unit, was due to receive the latest Block 3I software that month. Once installed, the squadron would begin dropping inert rounds at the Utah Test and Training Range. The 34th FS was expected to declare initial operational capability on Aug. 1, 2016, with 24 qualified pilots and 14 to 16 operational aircraft. The unit was part of the 388th Fighter Wing, which was expected to eventually operate 76 F-35As.

Lockheed Martin announced on Feb. 25, 2016, that it had delivered the 200th Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) for the F-35. All of the systems were handed over on time or ahead of schedule. A total of 367 EOTS had been ordered at the time, the company said. The system had also received a low-risk rating in its production readiness review in October 2015.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$8.7 million contract modification on Feb. 26, 2016, for long lead-time components, parts and materials for the production of six low-rate initial production Lot 10 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for F-35 fighters under the Foreign Military Sales program. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2018.

The March 2016 issue of Jane's International Defence Review reported that the U.K. Ministry of Defense had dropped plans to integrate the Storm Shadow cruise missile with its F-35Bs. The ministry was instead looking at the integration of a new long-range, deep-strike weapon in the distant future under the Selective Precision Effects at Range (SPEAR) Capability 5 program. The U.K. still expected to integrate the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and the projected SPEAR Capability 3 weapon with the F-35B, but no program had yet been agreed with the Joint Program Office. The ministry had set its threshold weapons for the F-35B to include the Paveway IV, Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM ) and AIM-120C AMRAAM . ASRAAM would only be qualified as an external store, since it did not fit in the F-35B's internal bay, British defense officials said. At the time, the U.K. planned to declare initial operational capability with the F-35B in late 2018 with the three threshold weapons. The SPEAR Cap 5 was planned to be met by a notional Future Cruise Anti-Ship Weapon being studied by MBDA under a joint British/French project. Initial operational capability was expected in the 2030-35 period. MBDA had also developed a cropped-fin variant of the Meteor missile to allow it to be carried internally on the F-35B.

Jane's Defence Weekly reported on March 6, 2016, that a software glitch that interfered with the ability of the F-35's AN/APG-81 radar to work in flight posed the greatest threat to delaying Air Force plans to declare initial operational capability in late 2016. The problem was described as "radar stability" when using the Block 3I software that the Air Force intended to use for its initial operational aircraft. During testing, pilots were getting a signal that said either that the radar was degraded or failed, forcing a restart of the system, said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the director of the Air Force F-35 integration office. The issue popped up in testing in late 2015. Lockheed discovered the root cause and was in the process of resolving it, he said. New software that corrected the error was to be in place by the end of March 2016.

The magazine also said that the Air Force was preparing its follow-on modernization plan for the F-35A, including new electronic warfare capabilities and potentially a more powerful engine. The capabilities being evaluated were being considered for the 2020 to 2025 timeframe, said Harrigian. New electronic warfare and electronic attack capabilities would be incremented with both Block 3I and Block 3F software. The general also said that an option for a new engine was possible around 2025, but that it was not currently high on the Air Force's list of upgrades.

Flight International reported on March 7, 2016, that Lockheed Martin was assembling a prototype of its advanced Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) that was proposed to replace the baseline version on the F-35. Design and construction of the system was slated to be completed in 2016, to be followed by trials on a surrogate test aircraft. The upgraded multispectral system would allow the F-35 to detect air and ground targets with greater clarity and at longer ranges through short-wave infrared, high-definition TV, infrared marker and image detector resolution improvements. The baseline EOTS was already outdated because of delays in fielding and improving the F-35. Lockheed hoped that the new sensor would be part of the F-35 Block 4 project, which was scheduled to begin in 2019.

Lockheed Martin updated reporters on the state of the F-35 program on March 15, 2016, at a media day in Arlington, Va. The company said "a handful of modifications" must be completed on the F-35A before the Air Force could declare initial operational capability sometime between August and December 2016. This included an enhancement to the fuel system that ensured it could sustain high pressures during high-g maneuvering, said company officials cited by AIN Online. Japan was expected to receive its first F-35A in September 2016, while Israel would get its first in December 2016. Both jets would initially be stationed at Luke AFB. Three fixes for safety concerns regarding the Martin-Baker US16E ejection seat would be implemented by the end of 2016 or in early 2017. These included an adjustable weight switch to the seat that would delay the deployment of the main parachute for lighter pilots and mounting a fabric mesh between the parachute risers that would prevent the pilot's head from moving backward when the parachute opened. A lighter version of the Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems helmet-mounted display system was also developed to reduce pressure on the pilot's neck. The Gen 3 helmet was lightened from 5.1 lb to 4.6 lb by reducing some material thickness. The pilot would also change out the day or night visor based on the light conditions. Testing of the lighter Gen 3 helmet was scheduled to begin in late March 2016, reported Defense News.

The Lockheed program manager for the F-35 also said that the cost of the F-35A variant was expected to drop from about US$100 million per aircraft to about US$85 million by 2019, due to efficiencies and cost-cutting manufacturing technologies, reported Production volume was also reducing costs.

Defense News reported on March 23, 2016, that the most recent Pentagon estimate for the F-35's total acquisition cost indicated a drop of US$12.1 billion since 2014. As of March 2016, the estimate was US$379 billion, down from US$391 billion projected in 2014, according to the Government Accountability Office. The figure included research, development, test and evaluation, procurement and military construction funds. At the same time, the F-35 would not get its full combat capability package until late fall of 2017, a delay of about four months from the original plan, according to Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program manager. Testing of the previous Block 2B and 3i software took longer than expected, he said. The Block 3F software would be completed about four months late. The delay is not expected to affect the Navy's ability to declare initial operational capability for the F-35C in 2018 or coalition capabilities, said the general.

The F-35A dropped an inert AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW ) on March 23, 2016, during trials from NAS Patuxent River. The drop test was the first of several in 2016 to certify the weapon for use by the F-35. Previously, only Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) had been dropped from its internal weapons bay, reported Flight International for April 12, 2016. The JSOW would be standard with the Block 3F software configuration. The U.S. Air Force also announced plans to station two operational F-35A squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, with aircraft slated to arrive in late 2019 and 2020.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$18.5 million contract modification on March 24, 2016, for development of the Block 4 system functional review in support of F-35 aircraft. The Block 4 modernization program included new and upgraded capabilities to maintain viability against evolving threats, reduce lifecycle costs and improve operational suitability, according to a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed in May 2017.

Also on March 24, Lockheed Martin received a US$180 million contract modification for the advance procurement of long lead-time materials, parts, components and work to maintain the planned production schedule for low-rate production Lot 11 F-35 aircraft. The deal increased the quantity of aircraft by 15 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force and 10 F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2019.

Defense News reported on March 24, 2016, that the U.S. military had decided to extend the service life of the F-35 an additional six years to 2070. The U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy decided to increase the total flight hours for the fleet by 1.6 million, program officials said. The Air Force added 1.3 million hours and the Navy 300,000. The Air Force extended the service life of each aircraft by two years, adding six years to the program, the program office said. The extension also added US$45 billion in operations and support costs to a 2015 estimate, hiding a 2 to 4 percent drop in real operations and support costs, officials said. Without the extension, lifecycle costs would have dropped by about US$22 billion from the 2014 estimate. The new 60-year estimate to keep the F-35 in service until 2070 was about US$1.12 trillion. Procurement costs over the life of the program had dropped from US$391 billion in 2014 to US$379 billion, according to the latest Pentagon Selected Acquisition Report at the time.

On March 31, 2016, USNI News reported that the U.S. Navy had increased its projected annual use of the F-35C, increasing it by 60 hours per jet per year. The move came as the service was refining its training plans for the F-35. The operational forecast increased from 25 hours per month in 2014 to 30 hours per month in its 2015 estimate, or from 300 hours to 360 hours annually, said a Navy spokeswoman. The increase was intended to "support the fleet's predicted training requirements," she said. At the same time, the Air Force had recently reduced its operational forecast for the F-35A from 400 flight hours to 350 hours annually. The reduction would stretch the service life of the jet, enabling the F-35A to remain in service for an additional five or six years. Adding the additional six years of operations increased the program's total cost by about US$23 billion. The Marine Corps did not revise its forecast, but added about 70,000 flight hours into its program over the service life of the jets. This was about a 3 percent increase in flight hours compared to a previous assessment, said a Marine spokeswoman.

Israel Aerospace Industries announced on April 3, 2016, that it had launched production of the command, control, communications and computer (C4) systems it had developed for the Israeli F-35I Adir. The tactical C4 architecture introduced unique force multipliers in a networked battlespace, according to a company release. The system would enable the Israeli air force to better manage and rapidly field network applications that interface with core services over proprietary protocols developed for the service. The new C4 system used generic communications infrastructure based on software-defined radios and would provide the backbone for the air force's future airborne communications network. The new system permitted rapid software and hardware development cycles that would reduce the costs of modernization and support.

On April 11, 2016, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$1 billion contract modification for Lot 9 low-rate initial production F-35 Lightning II propulsion systems for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, international partners and Foreign Military Sales customers. The modification covered components, parts and materials for 28 F135-PW-100 conventional takeoff and landing propulsion systems for the Air Force; six F-135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the Marine Corps; and four F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Navy. It also covered seven F135-PW-100 and seven F-135-PW-600 propulsion systems for international partners and 11 F135-PW-100 spare propulsion systems for Foreign Military Sales customers. Three spare propulsion systems and one trainer propulsion system would also be supplied to the Air Force. Work was scheduled to be completed in September 2019. The deal brought the total contract value for Lot 9 engines to US$1.4 billion, reported Reuters. The deal included engines for Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway and the U.K.

On April 13, 2016, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that the U.K. had taken delivery of its fourth and last pre-production F-35B aircraft. The jet, BK-4, arrived at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in February, before being delivered to 17 (Reserve) Squadron at Edwards AFB in the second week of March 2016 for operational test and evaluation operations. The first British operation unit, the 617 "Dambusters" Squadron, would begin standing up with the first 14 operational aircraft at MCAS Beaufort later in 2016. The unit was anticipated to move to its home station of RAF Marham in 2018. Initial operational capability was expected to be reached in December 2018. The second unit, 809 "Immortals" Naval Air Squadron, would be established ahead of sea trials aboard the aircraft carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH in 2018, with full operational capability slated for 2023.

On April 22, 2016, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$73.8 million contract modification for long lead materials, parts and components to maintain the planned production schedule for six low-rate initial production Lot 12 F-35As for Japan. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2020.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on April 25, 2016, that Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force were working on a software protocol, dubbed Open Mission Systems (OMS), that would accelerate technology insertion into existing and future F-35 jets. By standardizing the process for moving data around the F-35's open architecture backbone, the OMS would support more rapid software development and mission systems integration. The protocol was expected to be introduced in the near future. Israel was already adding its own command, control, communications and computing (C4) system using the F-35's open architecture software. Once OMS was implemented, operators would be able to add their own software instead of waiting for planned U.S. upgrades. Users that do so, however, do not get the benefits of the rest of the F-35 ecosystem, said Lockheed officials. The program had a defined joint standards process that was intended to align partners with common enterprise support across both hardware and software. The latter allows common fixes to apply to all aircraft. Any integration of new software, however, requires U.S. government oversight and the involvement of the two prime contractors, noted the F-35 Joint Program Office.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$1.3 billion contract modification on May 2, 2016, to add 13 F-35s to a previous low-rate initial production Lot 11 advance acquisition contract. The deal covered six F-35Bs for the Marine Corps; three F-35As for the Air Force; and four F-35Cs for the Navy. Work was to be completed in December 2019.

The contract covered additional F-35 aircraft added to the fiscal 2016 budget submission by Congress. The Pentagon asked for two more F-35s than planned, and Congress added 11 more from there. Since the jets were not expected when contract negotiations began, no funds were initially included for long lead work, reported Defense News. The money would go toward adding the 13 F-35s into the production schedule with other aircraft appropriated in fiscal 2016, which were included in the 10th low-rate production lot, said the Joint Program Office. Contract negotiations for the ninth and 10th production batches had not yet been finalized, noted the newspaper.

VMFA-211 at MCAS Yuma, the second Marine Corps operational F-35B squadron, received its first two aircraft on May 9, 2016. The unit would eventually be equipped with 16 jets.

On May 10, 2016, Defense News reported that the F-35 Joint Program Office had completed development of the Block 3I software for the F-35A. The software would be used on the initial F-35As that would be declared operational by the Air Force. A new improved version of the Block 3I software was about twice as stable as the Block 2B software and three times as stable as the original 3I software, said a program spokesman. The F-35 fleet was expected to begin receiving the new software within days. The fixes were also incorporated into the Block 2B software that was used by the Marine Corps to declare initial operational capability on its F-35Bs in 2015. The new version would start to be retrofitted on the earlier aircraft by the end of the month, the spokesman said. All F-35s would be upgraded to the new software standards by the end of 2016.

Defense News reported on May 11, 2016, that F-35 pilots, maintainers and technicians at Edwards AFB said they were happy with the F-35 despite the numerous issues with the program. One test pilot said that the biggest difference between the F-35 and legacy jets was that the pilot was freed from basic "stick-and-rudder" tasks by the F-35's automation and could focus on mission planning. Others indicated that the customizable touchscreen display was a major improvement. The display can be easily changed at any time by scrolling through various "portals" using the hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls. Along with the user-friendly display on the Gen 3 helmet, pilots have a comprehensive picture of the whole battlefield. Pilots also expressed satisfaction with the F-35's high angle-of-attack (AOA) capability and its ability to perform high alpha maneuvers. As pilots gained experience, they were also learning some tricks for handling a close-in fight. Integration of the AIM-9X Sidewinder , part of the final Block 3F software package, would be a "dogfighting game-changer," said Lt. Col. Raja Chari, the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron.

Maintainers also indicated that the ALIS made their jobs easier on a day-to-day basis, despite reported challenges with the system. The jet features access panels that make it much easier for technicians to make adjustments. The computer was critical for fixing surface damage to the F-35's stealth coating. Weapons were also easier to maintain because the F-35 employs a pneumatic launching method rather than explosive, said technicians.

The Danish government announced on May 12, 2016, that it had selected the F-35A as the replacement for its aging F-16 fighters. The government recommended the purchase of 27 aircraft to the Parliament, which would make the final decision. The F-35 was chosen over the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon , according to the Copenhagen Post. The F-35 scored highest in all four assessment criteria, said a report from Radio24Syv. Defense Minister Peter Christensen said that total lifecycle costs for the fleet were estimated at US$8.7 billion. Officials estimated that the F-35 offered the lowest lifecycle costs, because fewer aircraft were needed compared to the competitors to perform the same missions, reported Defense News . Other reports suggested that the cost could be as high as US$15 billion, reported the Local (Copenhagen). A political battle was still expected over the final number of jets to be purchased. The Conservatives said a minimum of 30 was needed, while the Socialist People's Party argued for 18 to 24. The Danish F-35s were expected to enter service by 2027.

Also on May 12, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a pair of contracts for the F-35 program. A US$31.1 million contract modification covered long lead-time materials, parts, components and work to maintain the planned production schedule for eight F-35A low-rate production Lot 12 jets for the Netherlands. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2021.

A second modification, worth US$10.6 million, procured 61 retrofit kits to correct deficiencies that precluded aircraft mission readiness in support of Marine Corps F-35B initial operational capabilities, according to a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed in January 2019.

On May 19, 2016, Aviation Week & Space Technology reported that the U.K. planned to build a force of four frontline F-35 squadrons. Each squadron would have 12 aircraft. A fifth unit, also with 12 jets, would serve as an operational conversion unit. Three additional aircraft would be assigned to 17 Squadron, an operational test and evaluation unit that would be based at Edwards AFB. This would result in an operational fleet of 63 aircraft, less than half of the 138 F-35s the U.K. indicated it would buy in its 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review. The total would cover attrition replacements and the sustainment fleet, said Air Commodore Harvey Smyth, the head of the British F-35 force. The first frontline unit, 617 Squadron, was slated to be activated at MCAS Beaufort in January 2018. It would move to the U.K. in the summer of 2018 and reach initial operational capability by the end of that year. All U.K. F-35 operations would be concentrated at RAF Marham, Norfolk, said Smyth. The operational conversion unit was expected to begin U.K. training in the third quarter of 2019. The second frontline squadron, 809 Naval Air Squadron, would not be established until April 2023. Initial sea trials for F-35s operating from the QUEEN ELIZABETH aircraft carrier were slated to begin in late 2018 off the east coast of the U.S. An initial maritime capability was expected in late 2020.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on May 31, 2016, that initial noise trials of the F-35 in the Netherlands found that the difference in acoustic levels between it and the F-16 was perceived to be small. Some said that the F-35 was less noisy than the high-pitch whine produced by the F-16 . Noise measuring equipment found the F-35 peaked at around 109 dB, while the F-16 reached 112 dB. The F-35s were flown with no external weapons or fuel tanks, demonstrating a common training configuration for the Netherlands, officials said.

The Danish Ministry of Defense announced on June 9, 2016, that the government had reached an agreement with the Parliament for the acquisition of 27 F-35s. The accord called for an initial purchase of 21 jets, with the last six to be purchased later, once sufficient funds were available. The number of jets would maintain Denmark's current operational fighter capacity and ensure it had the ability to assert Danish sovereignty and deploy abroad in line with NATO commitments, the ministry said. Deliveries were expected from 2021 to 2026, with the F-16 fleet to be retired by the end of 2024. The ministry anticipated that the F-35 would be capable of the full range of missions, domestic and international beginning in 2027. The purchase of 27 F-35s was estimated to cost US$3 billion.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for June 20, 2016, reported that Pratt & Whitney had revealed new details of a proposed upgrade for the F-35's F135 engine, which could reduce the fuel consumption of jets entering service by the early 2020s by up to 7 percent. The package built on a fuel-burn reduction effort by the U.S. Navy and an improved compressor developed by Pratt & Whitney. Testing had been successful and the upgrade could be introduced as a "drop-in," Pratt & Whitney officials said. The potential improvements, which would offer extended range and engine life, would have to be acquired by the F-35 program first. At the time, it was a Navy technology demonstration. The enhanced design involved changes to the aerodynamics of the six integrated bladed rotors that form the high-pressure compressor module. In the meantime, Pratt & Whitney was working on a production change that would improve performance of the first stage of the F135 three-stage fan. The change would be available in 2017.

Defense Insider reported on June 20, 2016, that the Pentagon had announced plans to award a contract to Lockheed Martin in early 2017 for F-35 production lots 12-14. The proposed deals would cover 100 F-35As, 26 F-5Bs and six F-35Cs in Lot 12; 104 F-35As, 26 F-35Bs and 12 F-35Cs in Lot 13; and 88 F-35As, 30 F-35Bs and 18 F-35Cs in Lot 14. A total of 410 aircraft would be purchased under the proposal, which was posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website on June 16. noted that despite the plans, the Pentagon had not yet awarded the main contracts for Lots 9-11.

Lockheed Martin rolled out the first F-35I for the Israeli air force on June 22, 2016. Israel would install its own cyber defense systems on the aircraft to be delivered later that year, according to Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, the air force chief of staff, as cited by the Jerusalem Post. Israeli firms would also perform some maintenance. The U.S. would be responsible for basic maintenance, which would take place at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel, said Kelman. The air force also wanted to increase its order from 33 to 50 F-35s, with the goal of reaching a force of 75. The first two jets were scheduled for delivery in 2016, with six or seven to be handed over annually thereafter. One of the original 33 ordered would be used for development and testing. This would permit Israel to upgrade its later aircraft with domestic munitions and systems, the air force chief said. At the time, more than 170 delivered F-35s had flown a total of more than 60,000 flight hours, said a Lockheed release.

Once the first F-35Is arrived in Israel, they would be equipped with a bespoke C4 system that would augment the existing Lockheed central avionics system, reported Aviation Week & Space Technology for July 4, 2016. This would provide an autonomous communications protocol interface that is compatible with Israel's existing communication systems. The design of the aircraft's installations, power and cooling had also been modified to potentially expand electronic warfare spectral coverage through a podded system, according to Lockheed officials. The Israeli Spice -1000 electro-optical/GPS -guided weapon was being integrated and work was underway on potential external fuel tanks.

Also on June 22, Flight International reported that the U.S. government was considering a potential hybrid block buy for the F-35. Plans for a block buy that would include low-rate production Lot 12 were hindered by a resistant Congress and budget austerity. The U.S. did not have sufficient funding in fiscal 2017 to enter into a block buy that would include Lot 12, which would begin in 2018, said program officials. The planned procurement quantities for lots 12, 13 and 14 were revealed in a June 16, 2016, announcement (see above). Washington's best course of action would be wait until Lot 13 to enter into a block buy, said the officials. However, other partners and customers who had committed to buying F-35s and had sufficient funding could seek to start a block buy as soon as possible. As a result, the government was considering a hybrid, where those customers that wanted to start in Lot 12 could do that, with the U.S. services joining in Lot 13. The block buy would lead to significant cost savings. The U.S. had long planned to delay its participation until Lot 13. Congress had expressed opposition to any block buy or multi-year procurement until initial operational testing was completed in fiscal 2019, which coincided with Lot 13.

On June 23, 2016, Lockheed Martin received a US$27.2 million Navy contract for non-recurring work to develop a common F-35A air system, including training device integration, fusion updates and flight-test requirements for Israel and South Korea. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2018.

Defense News reported on June 24, 2016, that the U.S. Air Force was considering replacing the Martin-Baker ejection seat on the F-35 with the United Technologies ACES 5 system. Such a move was still in the very early stage. However, it could affect the workshare strategy for the international fleet. The Air Force only recently sent a letter to the F-35 Joint Program Office to gather data on potential costs and challenges for switching the ejection seat, officials said. The ACES 5 seat features a stabilization system, dubbed STAPAC, which helps correct for pitch during ejection, stabilizing it during the process, which could help alleviate risks discovered on the Martin-Baker US16E seat (see "Issues," below, for more information). The decision was being driven in part by frustration that Martin-Baker was making small fixes and not addressing core design issues with its ejection seat, said unnamed sources.

On the industrial front, should the Air Force abandon the US16E seat, the U.K. might demand more workshare in the future to make up for lost revenue. It would also increase costs for the U.S. Air Force, said a source.

Defense News reported on July 7, 2016, that the Air Force had not approached Lockheed Martin about considering alternative ejection seats. Company officials said they were prepared to assess the ACES 5 seat should the government decide it was necessary. The officials also expressed confidence that the Martin-Baker seat would be fully qualified for all F-35 pilots by the winter of 2016.

Also on June 24, 2016, the Canadian government paid Can$32.9 million (US$25.7 million) to the F-35 Joint Program Office. The payment meant Canada remained one of nine partners for the project for the following year. At that time, Ottawa had spent Can$311 million (US$243 million) for the program, without committing to buy any aircraft. By remaining a partner, Canadian firms remained eligible for contracts. Canadian companies had obtained US$812 million in contracts involving the F-35 since 1997, according to the government.

On June 30, 2016, the Marine Corps re-designated Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) as the unit made the transition from the AV-8B Harrier II to the F-35B Lightning II. The Yuma-based squadron flew its final flight with the Harrier on May 6, 2016, and received its first two F-35Bs on May 9, the service said in a release. The Marines also planned to conduct its first operational deployment in 2017, noted DoD Buzz. VMFA-121 was scheduled to head to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in January 2017. The squadron would then deploy with an amphibious ready group in the fall of 2017, according to Marine officials. VMFA-122, an F/A-18 unit based at MCAS Beaufort was slated to begin receiving the F-35B in 2018. VMFA-115 at Beaufort and VMA-11 at Yuma were scheduled to transition from Hornets and Harriers, respectively, to the F-35B starting in 2020.

Also on June 30, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB delivered the 12th modified F-35A Lightning II for the Air Force's active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing. The delivery provided the two wings with the minimum number of aircraft needed to reach initial operational capability, according to a release from the U.S. Air Combat Command. The goal was to declare IOC between August and December 2016 when the 34th Fighter Squadron had between 12 and 24 aircraft; airmen were trained, manned and equipped to perform basic close-air support, interdiction and limited suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses missions. The modifications were found to be necessary after testing of the initial combat-coded F-35As that were delivered to the Air Force in September 2015. The work corrected an overpressure condition in the fuel system during elevated g-maneuvers, said maintenance officials. The overpressure exceeded fuel tank structural limits, requiring restrictive g-limits to be implemented until the modifications were completed. Other modifications were also made during the depot-level maintenance.

The Wall Street Journal reported on July 7, 2016, that Lockheed Martin was in the final stages of negotiations with the U.S. Dept. of Defense to conclude a contract for the next batch of F-35 jets. The anticipated deal would cover 160 aircraft over two years. The first of these aircraft would be delivered after September 2016, said Lockheed officials. The contract talks had been hindered by differences over costs between the Pentagon and the firms involved. Lot 9 would cover 63 F-35s, with another 97 to be purchased the following year under the combined contract. Unit cost would be less than US$100 million, including the engine, Lockheed officials said. Program officials set a target unit cost of US$85 million in fiscal 2019.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$1.5 billion contract modification on July 7, 2016, for the manufacture of low-rate initial production Lot 10 F135-PW-100 powerplants for the U.S. Air Force (44); Navy (4); and nine F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the Marine Corps. It also covered components, parts and materials for 36 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for international partners and Foreign Military Sales customers; four F135-PW-600 powerplants for international partners; and two F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the global spares pool. Work was scheduled to be completed in September 2019.

Flight International reported on July 10, 2016, that Pratt & Whitney was proposing a Block 1 upgrade for its F135 engine, with the hope that the program would be funded in a long-term U.S. budget plan after 2019. If funded in 2019, the upgrade could enter service by 2023, said company officials. That would be ideal timing, since that's when the engines would be due for an overhaul. During that maintenance work, replacement parts would be installed to provide the new capabilities. The proposed Block 1 upgrade would improve the baseline engine with 5-7 percent better fuel burn and up to 10 percent more thrust. This could increase the engine's thrust rating up to 47,300 lb (210 kN). Such an increase could also affect the lift system for the STOVL variant. On those engines, Pratt & Whitney must balance increased thrust on the aft engine by increasing thrust on the front. Talks were underway with Rolls Royce and the U.S. Navy, but there was no technology program for lift system components at the time. The technology work for that was about four-to-five years behind the engine, said company officials.

On July 11, 2016, Lockheed Martin unveiled a number of new affordability initiatives designed to reduce F-35 procurement and sustainment costs. The company said it would invest up to US$170 million over the following two years to extend its existing "Blueprint for Affordability" efforts, reported Defense News. Lockheed also said it was launching a new program to reduce sustainability costs by US$1 billion over the following five years. The Blueprint for Affordability was launched in 2014 using US$164 million in private funding from Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. At the time, 193 projects were in progress and expected to cut US$1.15 million per aircraft produced in the ninth low-rate initial production batch and US$1.7 million from aircraft in Lot 10. This would result in savings of US$227 million and lifecycle savings of more than US$4 billion over the remaining production run, noted Combat Aircraft for September 2016. The sustainment cost reduction initiative sought to slash operations and maintenance expenses by 10 percent from fiscal 2018 through fiscal 2022. The companies planned to invest US$250 million in the effort.

Also on July 11, Defense News reported that Rolls Royce had received a US$216 million contract with Pratt & Whitney for lift systems for F-35Bs. The deal covered 13 lift systems, spare parts and tooling. The lift systems would be integrated in low-rate production Lot 9 aircraft.

Jane's Defence Weekly reported on July 13, 2016, that the F-35B had successfully completed the initial phase of land-based ski-jump testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The trials were the first step toward flight trials from the British Royal Navy's QUEEN ELIZABETH -class aircraft carriers. The testing validated modeling work and provided certification-quality evidence that was needed to permit pilots to operate from the carriers, said BAE Systems officials.

Defense News reported on July 14, 2016, that the Marine Corps was pushing for integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II), full-motion video and improve the electro-optical targeting system with forward-looking infrared as part of the planned Block 4 upgrade for the F-35. The Lightning II was being equipped with the baseline SDB to start. The SDB II features a tri-mode seeker and would significantly increase the capability of the F-35, according to Marine officials.

Defense News reported on July 27, 2016, that the U.S. Air Force's first F-35 squadron had completed all preparations necessary for the initial operational capability milestone. A declaration could follow within a week, said unnamed sources. Twelve F-35As had received the modifications necessary for the initial capability and 21 combat mission ready pilots were available. The maintenance infrastructure to support the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB was also ready. At the time, Hill AFB had received 15 F-35As, with a 16th expected in August.

On July 28, 2016, an F-35A completed its first live air-to-air "kill," by destroying a drone over a test range off the coast of California. During the test, an F-35A fired a wing-mounted AIM-9X Sidewinder missile against an aerial drone target. The fighter identified and targeted the drone with its sensors, passed the target track data to the missile, enabling the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet-mounted display and launched the missile. Once fired, the Sidewinder successfully acquired the target, followed an intercept flight profile and destroyed the drone. Just before launching the Sidewinder , the F-35 fired an internally carried AIM-120C AMRAAM against another target drone at beyond-visual range. The AMRAAM was ordered to self-destruct right before target impact, the Air Force said. During previous test shots involving the F-35, the missiles were ordered to self-destruct before hitting the target. Increased weapons testing supported Block 3F software testing, the service said.

Air Force Times reported on July 31, 2016, that F-35s training at Mountain Home AFB had to turn on their transponders for surface-to-air threat training, because otherwise radar systems on the ground could not track the aircraft. Four F-35s could also cover a significant area of ground and airspace with their sensors, giving them an advantage against F-15s and F-16s simulating an air threat, said Air Force officials.

In July 2016, the Norwegian air force received its third and fourth F-35A jets, which were assigned to Luke AFB. The four-strong Norwegian fleet racked up more than 300 flight hours by early August 2016, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. The first aircraft would arrive in Norway in 2017.

The U.S. Air Force activated its newest F-35 unit, the 63rd Fighter Squadron, at Luke AFB on Aug. 1, 2016. The unit was assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing's Operations Group. The third training squadron assigned to the group, the 63rd was scheduled to begin receiving its aircraft in March 2017. The unit would initially train Turkish F-35 pilots, reported Combat Aircraft for October 2016. The 56th Fighter Wing was slated to have three more F-35A squadrons by 2022 and operate a total of 144 aircraft.

Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 8, 2016, that Singapore had postponed a decision on buying up to 12 F-35s. The Singapore government informed the U.S. in mid-June 2016 that it was delaying the final steps toward purchasing four F-35s by 2022, with an option for eight more. Singapore submitted a letter of request to the U.S. in December 2014, seeking information on buying the jet. In early 2015, Singapore indicated it wanted to procure F-35B aircraft. Earlier in 2016, the U.S. decided to permit Singapore to integrate its own data link and radio into any F-35s it bought, according to the F-35 program office.

Defense News for Aug. 8, 2016, reported that Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vt., was set to become the second operational Air Force F-35 base and the first Air National Guard base. It would receive 18 F-35s to replace its F-16s, said Air Force officials. Around 2020, Eielson AFB would receive two squadrons of 24 F-35s. The U.S. Air Force base at RAF Lakenheath in England was to receive two F-35 squadrons beginning in 2021. The service was still evaluating locations for the fifth, sixth and seventh operational bases. The fifth and sixth would be National Guard installations, while the seventh would be one of four reserve bases.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$17.4 million contract modification on Aug. 18, 2016, for additional long lead-time items in support of the F-35 low-rate production Lot 11 procurement. The deal covered group hardware for 48 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the U.S. Air Force; 14 F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the U.S. Marine Corps; four F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Navy; and 51 F135-PW-100 and three F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for international partners and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work was scheduled to be completed in August 2018.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on Aug. 22, 2016, that the U.S. planned to deploy 16 F-35 fighters to the Iwakuni air base in Yamaguchi prefecture in 2017. This would be the first time that the F-35 was stationed overseas. The first 10 aircraft would arrive in January 2017, with six more to deploy in August. Plans called for replacing F/A-18 and AV-8B aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni with the F-35B.

Also on Aug. 22, Flight Global reported that the F-35, fitted with the new Block 3F software, had recently completed 12 weapons delivery accuracy and 13 weapon separation tests during a month-long trial. The testing involved 30 different weapons, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition; AIM-120 AMRAAM ; Small Diameter Bomb ; and AIM-9X Sidewinder , according to a Lockheed Martin release.

On Aug. 26, 2016, the U.S. Air Force received its 100th F-35 at Luke AFB. Luke was the service's only active-duty Air Force F-35 training base, the service said in a release. It had recently activated its third of six planned units, the 63rd Fighter Squadron.

Flight International for Sept. 6, 2016, reported that the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile was expected to be qualified for Norway's F-35s in 2017. The Turkish SOM-J cruise missile was slated to be available with the Block 4 software around 2023-2024. Qualification testing of the weapon was anticipated for 2018. The U.K. planned to integrate a number of weapons with the Block 4 software, including the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile; Spear 3; the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM ); and the Paveway IV guided bomb with a new penetrating warhead. U.S. F-35As were expected to be able to carry the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb starting in 2021.

On Sept. 12, 2016, Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps conducted the first integration of the F-35 Lightning II and Aegis weapon system for a live-fire missile event. The exercise successfully demonstrated the integration of the F-35 to support the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) capability. During the test, a Marine F-35B served as an elevated sensor and detected an over-the-horizon threat. The jet sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link (MADL) to a ground station connected to the Aegis weapon system on the land-based USS Desert Ship (LLS-1) at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The target was then intercepted by an SM-6 missile. The capability would eventually allow the Aegis and F-35 to work together to improve naval situational awareness and enable personnel to better understand the maritime operational environment, said Lockheed. Any variant of the F-35 could be used as a broad area sensor to significantly increase the ability of the Aegis system to detect, track and engage threats, the company said.

Also on Sept. 12, Inside Defense reported that Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James had certified to Congress that F-35As delivered in fiscal 2018 would have full combat capability, including Block 3F software and weapons carriage. The certification had not yet been publicly announced. The publication also was unclear if the milestone involved aircraft delivered in fiscal 2018 or produced in 2018. F-35As to be delivered in fiscal 2018 were part of the 10th low-rate production batch, but that contract had not yet been awarded, noted

On Sept. 23, 2016, Lockheed Martin rolled out the first F-35A for Japan at its facility in Fort Worth. The aircraft had made its first flight on Aug. 24, 2016. The first four F-35As were scheduled to be built in Fort Worth, with the remaining 38 to be constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya. Production of the first Japanese-built aircraft began in December 2015, noted Flight International for Oct. 4, 2016. The first four jets were scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2016.

Defense News reported on Sept. 26, 2016, that the F-35 Joint Program Office was planning to launch major upgrades on the fighter's engine in the mid-2020s. In that timeframe, the powerplant could be refreshed, whether through improvements to the existing F135 engine or through a new engine design, said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program manager. At the time, the Air Force was funding the early stages of the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (ATEP) competition, which aimed to see if Pratt & Whitney and General Electric Aviation could successfully add a third airstream within the engine. The program goal was to "demonstrate 25 percent improved fuel efficiency, 10 percent increased thrust and significantly improved thermal management," according to an Air Force release.

As of October 2016, the U.S. Navy had taken delivery of 20 F-35Cs, in addition to five system development and demonstration aircraft. An additional 15 F-35Cs had been ordered through low-rate production Lot 10, including the first F-35C for the Marine Corps.

Jane's International Defence Review for October 2016 reported that the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Raytheon had successfully test-fired three AIM-9X Block 1 missiles during live-fire tests to demonstrate the end-to-end system capability of the missile on the F-35. Block 3F aircraft would carry the Block 1 missile, while Block 2 missiles would be integrated with the Block 4 software upgrade, according to Raytheon officials. The Block 2 missile features a data link function that allows the aircraft to send updated target data to the missile after launch. Full AIM-9X Block 1 and initial Block 2 capabilities were slated to be fielded in late 2017. The full Block 2 capability was anticipated in 2020 with first follow-on modernization Block 4 release.

The Norwegian Ministry of Defense announced on Oct. 11, 2016, that the government had requested parliamentary authorization to order an additional 12 F-35A fighters, which would be delivered in two batches of six in 2021 and 2022. If approved, it would bring the total number of authorized jets to 40 out of the planned 52. It would also allow Norway to take part in a proposed multinational block buy program. Committing to buying the F-35 in a future block would help reduce costs to the desired US$80 million to US$85 million range, said a Lockheed release.

The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed a US$743.2 million contract modification on Oct. 17, 2016, to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 9 F-35 advance acquisition contract. The deal provided additional funding and established not-to-exceed prices for up to US$385 million in diminishing manufacturing and material shortages redesign and development; and estimated post-production concurrency changes on the 57 Lot 9 aircraft. Another US$25.4 million was for country unique requirements. Israel and Japan had requested aircraft in Lot 9, noted Flight International for Oct. 25, 2016. The modification also allocated US$333 million to set not-to-exceed prices for one F-35A and one F-35B for a non-U.S. Dept. of Defense participant in the program, said the magazine. Only Italy had ordered both variants in Lot 9. Work was to be completed in December 2019.

Jane's Defence Weekly reported on Oct. 26, 2016, that deliveries of the F-35 had slipped during the third quarter of 2016 and Lockheed would miss its targets for the year. Only 10 aircraft were delivered in that period, as compared to 12 in the third quarter of 2016. The shortfall was attributed to supplier issues, in particular deficient coolant insulation tubes (see "Issues," below, for more information). Lockheed was scheduled to deliver 53 F-35s in 2016. The company anticipated being back on schedule by the end of 2017.

Reuters reported on Oct. 28, 2016, that Turkey anticipated taking delivery of its first F-35 fighter in 2018 and had decided to order a second batch. The first two aircraft would be ordered in low-rate production Lot 10, with four more to be delivered from Lot 11 starting in 2019, reported Flight International for Nov. 8, 2016. The second batch would consist of 24 jets, to be delivered in batches of eight in Lots 12, 13 and 14. The second tranche would be delivered in 2021 and 2022. Turkey ordered two F-35s in 2014 and four in 2015. Ankara was committed to buying a total of 116 F-35s, reported Defense News.

On Oct. 28, 2016, the Marine Corps launched the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B aboard USS AMERICA (LHA 6). The three weeks of trials covered STOVL performance in high sea states; vertical takeoffs and landings; short takeoffs; night operations; symmetric and asymmetric internal and external weapon loads; and the first engine and lift-fan removal and replacement at sea, reported Naval Aviation News. The testing was designed to establish the envelope for safe and effective operations for F-35Bs equipped with the Block 3F software. The trials totaled nearly 54 flight hours across 60 flights. The testing wrapped up on Nov. 17. This was the final shipboard developmental test phase for the F-35B.

Combat Aircraft for November 2016 reported that VFA-147, the Argonauts, would be the first operational squadron to make the transition to the F-35C. The process was scheduled to begin in 2018, with the unit making its first deployment from NAS Lemoore, Calif., in 2020. Marine squadron VMFA-314 would be the second operational unit to convert in 2019.

Bloomberg News reported on Nov. 2, 2016, that the F-35 program office had requested around US$530 million to complete development of the Lightning II. The request was made during a review in October by the Defense Acquisition Board, said unnamed officials. The Defense Dept. and the military services that will operate the F-35 were assessing how to pay for the request, which would be part of the fiscal 2018 budget proposal. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's director of operational testing, told Bloomberg that flight testing to complete the development phase likely wouldn't be finished until November 2018, a year later than planned. A 10-month delay in the release of the latest software for flight testing; insufficient progress in flight testing of combat mission systems; questions about design deficiencies with the F-35's gun; too few aircraft available for test flights; and as many as 1,179 "significant open" software deficiency reports were all contributing to the delay, Gilmore said in a memo dated Oct. 14, 2016. There had also only been limited progress since an Aug. 9 letter to Pentagon leaders about potential problems with the program, he said. More funding was needed to complete all of the testing needed "to rectify a substantial number of existing critical deficiencies as well as the new deficiencies that will inevitably be discovered," said Gilmore. Half of the US$530 million would be used to cover unforeseen issues, such as the 2014 engine fire and delays in testing the 3F software, reported Defense News. About US$165 million would pay for new requirements that had developed and US$100 million would cover funding removed from the system development and demonstration (SDD) program in 2014. The F-35 program office anticipated that it could still complete the SDD phase by the end of 2017. There was about three to four months of risk in the schedule that could push the end of SDD flight testing to early 2018, said a spokesman.

Breaking Defense reported on Nov. 7, 2016, that the F-35's onboard computers were so advanced that they were figuring out that the radars on training ranges at Eglin AFB were not real air defense sites and so the software did not display them. In order to compensate, the Air Force was having to program the system to believe that the simulated threat was good enough to be displayed. The sensors on the F-35 and F-22 were also found to accumulate so much data that the communications networks on the aircraft could not transmit most of it. The Air Force needed to upgrade its network infrastructure to allow that data to flow across the force, said service officials.

On Nov. 16, 2016, the Defense Dept. awarded Lockheed Martin a US$6.1 billion contract for production of 57 Lot 9 F-35s. However, the contract was not mutually agreed upon, leaving Lockheed unhappy, reported Defense News. The Lot 9 aircraft were being procured for 3.7 percent less than the Lot 8 jets, according to the F-35 program office. Plans originally called for buying Lots 9 and 10 together, totaling about 150 aircraft for around US$14 billion. An agreement was to be reached in early 2016, but as negotiations stalled, the government opted to award a unilateral contract action. The unilateral contract required Lockheed to perform under standard terms and conditions and previously agreed-to items, said a company spokesman. A spokesman for the F-35 program said that both sides had already agreed on the number of aircraft for Lot 9, their configuration, the scope of work and the terms and conditions for the contract. What could not be settled was the total price, including the unit cost and fee that Lockheed would receive. After 14 months of talks, the government believed that further negotiations would not result in an agreement, the spokesman said. Lockheed believed that the government's contract position did not adequately address a realistic cost per plane or a fee that recognized Lockheed's investments and the requirements for meeting the delivery schedule, said an unnamed industry source. Lockheed could appeal the terms of the contract, the source said.

The Lot 9 deal covered 42 F-35As, 13 F-35Bs and two F-35Cs, with deliveries to begin in the first quarter of 2017. The government may have moved forward with the unilateral contract because of the closing delivery dates, while leaving time to agree on a deal for Lot 10, said the industry source.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$167.5 million advance acquisition contract on Nov. 8, 2016, for long lead-time components, parts and materials associated with low-rate initial production Lot 11 propulsion systems for the F-35 program. The deal covered 48 F135-PW-100 systems for the Air Force; 14 F135-PW-600s for the Marine Corps; and four F135-PW-100 systems for the Navy. The deal also covered components, parts and materials for 41 F135-PW-100 and three F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for international partners and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work was to be completed by May 2019.

On Nov. 23, 2016, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$7.2 billion undefinitized, not-to-exceed contract modification to the previously awarded low-rate production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract. The deal covered 90 aircraft, including 76 F-35As (44 for the U.S. Air Force; 16 for non-U.S. Dept. of Defense participants; and 16 for Foreign Military Sales customers); 12 F-35Bs (nine for the U.S. Marine Corps and three for non-U.S. DoD participants); and two F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy. The award also covered diminishing manufacturing and material shortages redesign and management; non-recurring engineering changes to correct deficiencies from concurrency between systems development and demonstration and production; and unique requirements for non-U.S. participants and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2020. Delivery of Lot 10 aircraft was expected to begin in 2018, according to Defense News. The undefinitized contract action would be finalized "during the next few months," according to a program spokesman. The Pentagon had awarded Lockheed a US$1.3 billion advance payment for Lot 10 production, the newspaper said. Unit cost would not be set until the contract was finalized.

Globes (Israel) reported on Nov. 28, 2016, that the Israeli security cabinet had approved the procurement of 17 more F-35A fighters, bringing the total authorized to 50. The 33 aircraft already on order would be delivered by 2021, including a test aircraft. The first two Israeli F-35As were scheduled for delivery on Dec. 12, the business paper said. The cost of the procurement was estimated at more than US$2.5 billion, including support equipment, according to defense and industry sources cited by Defense News. Immediately after delivery, the jets would be equipped with Israeli-developed systems, noted Flight International.

Also on Nov. 28, Flight International reported that F-35 developmental aircraft were in need of a service life extension. The program office planned to award Lockheed Martin a sole source contract for the work in the third quarter of fiscal 2017, according to an announcement on the Federal Business Opportunities website. Under the SLEP contract, Lockheed would evaluate the aircraft's airframe, hardware, software and structure, according to program officials. The contract, which applied to U.S. and international partners, would also bring the test fleet's hardware configuration to the latest standard. The developmental aircraft were designed for 8,000 flight hours. Since test planes fly at the extreme ends of their design limits for extended periods in order to gather data, they wear out faster than those operating within the standard envelope, said a spokesman for the program office. As of October 2016, individual jets within the test fleet had racked up between 314 and 1,200 flight hours. The program office planned to use the full life for systems aircraft, but would not use the maximum 8,000 flight hours for flight science aircraft that fly at the most stressful corners of the flight envelope.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force took delivery of its first F-35A at Luke AFB on Nov. 28, 2016. The aircraft was the first ordered under the Foreign Military Sales program to be delivered, noted a U.S. Air Force release. The fighter would be used to train Japanese pilots maintainers at Luke AFB.

In a Nov. 28, 2016, internal memo to Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, Michael Gilmore, the director of operational test and evaluation, noted that developmental flight testing would not be completed until mid-2018 at the earliest. Operational combat testing would start as soon as late 2018 or early 2019, but could be pushed as late as 2020. That testing was expected to last about a year, noted Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the memo. An Air Force certification to lawmakers that F-35s delivered in fiscal 2018 would have full combat capability was "highly unlikely" because of delays in testing the final software version and correcting 276 deficiencies. Live-fire testing of the gun system also faced new delays, Gilmore said. During recent test flights, symbols on the helmet display used to aim air-to-ground attacks were "unusable and unsafe to complete the planned testing."

A spokesman for the F-35 program office said that "there have only been a couple of flights" where the stability issue "was apparent, and the flight test data [are] still under review to determine root cause," according to Bloomberg. Additional improvements were incorporated in a software update released in November and pilot evaluations were still planned. Lockheed Martin and the program office planned to complete all flight-testing of the most capable software by late 2017, with delivery to deployed aircraft through spring 2018. That schedule could slip by about three months, the spokesman acknowledged.

Gilmore also said that the F-35C had inadequate wing strength. Its wingtips were not strong enough to carry the AIM-9X short-range air-to-air missile at some altitudes and airspeeds. Testing on a fix was underway. The initial defect reports on the structural weaknesses first appeared in 2013. Proposed fixes were just starting to be implemented. In addition, "excessive F-35 vertical oscillations," or shaking, in catapult launches from aircraft carriers also needed to be resolved, said Gilmore.

The Aviationist blog on Dec. 8, 2016, shared the experiences of four of the U.S. Marine Corps' most experienced pilots. The pilots said the platform was working exceptionally well. They touted the situational awareness they had in the cockpit, from the airspace around an airbase during a landing to monitoring potential air threats during a strike mission. The F-35 also made it possible to prepare and conduct a strike, while targeting an incoming threat to be engaged after the strike. The F-35B was said to be much easier to land vertically than the Harrier .

On Dec. 12, 2016, the first two F-35As for the Italian air force base arrived at Amendola air base in southern Italy. The service was the first outside of the U.S. to field the aircraft. Both aircraft were produced and assembled at the Italian final assembly and check out (FACO) facility in Cameri, noted an Italian air force release.

Also on Dec. 12, the Israeli air force received its first two F-35I Adir fighters at Nevatim Air Base near Beersheba. Israeli pilots made the first flight of the type in Israel on Dec. 13. Plans called for the F-35A to achieve operational status by December 2017. Six more aircraft were slated for delivery in 2017.

Flight International for Dec. 13, 2016, reported that the Netherlands would join Norway in developing a braking parachute system for the F-35. The Dutch government agreed to pay US$11.5 million to cover its share of the development costs. The contribution would allow Oslo to cover other expenses related to the F-35 acquisition, said the Norwegian Defense Ministry. At the time, the Dutch government had only committed to preparing aircraft for the drag chute mounting and its initial contribution covered only the development of the modification. The magazine also noted that an F-35B had recently dropped a Paveway IV guided bomb for the first time as part of a U.K.-funded effort to integrate the weapon with its future F-35B fleet.

Defense News reported on Dec. 19, 2016, that F-35 developmental flight testing, originally scheduled to end in October 2017, could extend as late as May 2018. If more money was needed for those activities, the F-35 program office planned to use funds from the follow-on modernization account, which would then defer those upgrades. At the time, the program office anticipated that system development and demonstration (SDD) flight testing would run through February 2018, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program manager. The extended flight test period would not likely exceed US$100 million, said Bogdan. Such a debit from the modernization account would result in at least a six-month delay to that program, the general said. The program office estimated that it needed an additional US$532 million to completely conclude SDD. About US$265 million of that figure was from monies the Pentagon cut from the SDD budget in 2014, as well as additional requirements that were added, such as cybersecurity upgrades and a modification to the logistics system, Bogdan said. The remaining US$267 million would be needed for redesigning the F-35 helmet and the F-35C model's tail hook, retrofits to address engine problems and work to resolve software stability issues. The program was also on track to deliver the full operational capability, including the Block 3F software, said Bogdan. The F-35A and F-35C were expected to receive the 3F software by February 2018. The F-35B would receive it in two stages, with its final update arriving in May 2018.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed a US$90.3 million contract modification to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract on Dec. 22, 2016. The deal covered 249 Gen 3 lightweight helmet-mounted display systems, oxygen masks and initial spares for the U.S. Air Force (110), Navy (30), Marine Corps (35), international partners (49) and Foreign Military Sales customers (25). Work was to be completed in November 2018.

On Dec. 29, 2016, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$450 million modification to a previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot 10 F-35 advance acquisition contract. The deal covered integration work for the development and delivery of the F-35 to South Korea under the Foreign Military Sales program. It also included non-recurring engineering work. Work was to be completed in August 2019.


The Italian Ministry of Defense accepted delivery of the first F-35B to be assembled outside of the U.S. on Jan. 25, 2018. The aircraft was handed over to the Italian navy during a ceremony at the final assembly and check out facility in Cameri. At the time, nine F-35As and one F-35B had been completed at the facility. Four had joined the international F-35 training fleet at Luke AFB and five were at Amendola Air Base, said a Lockheed Martin release.

On Jan. 26, 2018, the first F-35A for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force arrived at Misawa Air Base in Aomori prefecture in northern Japan. The aircraft was the first of 10 scheduled to be delivered to Misawa over the upcoming Japanese fiscal year that began in April 2018, reported Defense News. The initial aircraft would be operated by the 302nd Squadron, part of the 3rd Air Wing, which previously flew F-4EJ Phantom II jets. The jet was the second to be assembled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries F-35 final assembly and check out facility in Nagoya. The first five Japanese F-35As were based at Luke AFB for training.

The F-35 Joint Program Office announced on Jan. 30, 2018, that the it had recently approved a strategy to accelerate the implementation of anti-collision software on the F-35 five-years earlier than initially planned. The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) was designed to prevent controlled flight into terrain mishaps by executing an automatic recovery maneuver when a crash is imminent. This is accomplished through a predicted trajectory, based on GPS positioning and system altitude, which is compared with an onboard digital terrain database. Once the system recognizes that the aircraft is likely to crash, it prompts the pilot to take action to prevent the mishap. If no action is taken, the Auto-GCAS assumes temporary control, engaging an autopilot maneuver to roll the aircraft upright and initiate a 5 g pull, diverting the jet out of harm's way. Once the aircraft is on a safe trajectory, the system returns control to the pilot. The software had already been implemented on U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters. Plans called for implementing it on the F-35 fleet by 2019. The Auto-GCAS was estimated to prevent more than 26 ground collision over the service life of the F-35 fleet, said the program office. At the time, the Lightning II was equipped with an earlier software version that provided a manual ground collision avoidance system (MGCAS). This required the pilot to be able to hear, see, process and heed the MGCAS warning and manually fly the aircraft away from the ground. Implementing the Auto-GCAS capability was part of an F-35 modernization and improvement program that would build on the Block 3F software, the program office said.

Combat Aircraft for February 2018 reported that the U.S. Air Force had recently awarded Raytheon a US$59.7 million contract to integrate the GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II guided bomb with the F-35. Integration with the Block 3F software would allow the fighter to attack moving ground targets. Flight-testing of the GBU-49 with the F-35 was scheduled to begin in December 2017, with the Air Force to receive an initial 400 guidance kits by the end of January 2018.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$148 million contract on Feb. 2, 2018, for the procurement of Israel-unique weapons certification, modification kits and electronic warfare analysis in support of the F-35I system design and development to provide Block 3F+ capability. The deal was made under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, said a Pentagon release. Work was to be completed in December 2021.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for Feb. 12, 2018, reported that Lockheed Martin had identified a new supplier for cameras for the AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System. The company had better, cheaper cameras and Lockheed was looking to replace Northrop Grumman for the systems, officials said.

The Norwegian Ministry of Defense reported that it had completed a successful verification of the F-35 drag chute system at Orland Air Force Base on Feb. 16, 2018. The Norwegian F-35A was expected to fully qualify for Arctic conditions in the spring of 2018, officials said.

Flight International reported on Feb. 20, 2018, that the U.S. government had delivered an initial formal response to Lockheed's 14-month-old pricing proposal for more than 100 F-35s to be ordered under low-rate production Lot 11. The step renewed pricing negotiations between the Joint Program Office and the defense firm, the magazine said. At the same time, Lockheed had asked its suppliers to ramp up production for Lots 12-14, which was expected to total at least 440 F-35s over three years.

Reuters reported on Feb. 20, 2018, that Japan planned to buy at least 20 additional F-35A fighters over the following six years. Some or all might be procured directly from Lockheed Martin instead of being assembled locally, said three unnamed sources. Buying the aircraft from the United States at a cost of about US$100 million each would save Japan about US$30 million per airframe, the sources said. Japanese military planners were also considering buying F-35B STOVL jets, which could operate from small islands in the East China Sea or from ships such as the IZUMO -class helicopter carriers.

The Italian air force declared initial operational capability for its F-35As in the air-to-air role on March 1, 2018, reported Combat Aircraft for June 2018. The first five Italian F-35As, assigned to the 13th Squadron, 32nd Wing, at Amendola Air Base, had been supporting airspace surveillance missions with a standard conventional weapons loadout that included AIM-120C5 AMRAAM missiles. The milestone permitted the F-35A to undertake regular quick-reaction alert missions or be diverted from other operations to intercept and identify unknown aircraft, noted the Aviationist blog.

The U.S. Marine Corps announced on March 5, 2018, that F-35B fighters from VMFA-121 had embarked on the amphibious assault ship USS WASP for the Lightning IIs first operational deployment with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 31st MEU was set to conduct a regular patrol of the Indo-Pacific region with the WASP Amphibious Ready Group. A second deployment was scheduled for July 2018, when a detachment from VMFA-211 embarked on USS ESSEX as part of the 13th MEU.

Flight International for March 6, 2018, that U.S. military had started a new affordability initiative for the F-35 with a focus on labor costs and manufacturing efficiency. Two previous initiatives targeted cost-reductions for components or repairs as part of efforts to cut unit costs to about US$80-85 million for an F-35A purchased in fiscal 2019. Under the new project, teams would be sent to evaluate labor costs and manufacturing flow times to try and find efficiencies. In addition, concerns about the cost of sustaining the F-35 had led the Joint Program Office to expand the use of government depots to repair F-35 subsystems. Depots were already assigned repairs for the airframe structure and F135 engine. Squadrons had to rely on contractors to repair 68 subsystems, such as the auxiliary power unit and thermal management system. Shifting subsystem repairs to depots would give contractors more capacity to reduce a critical shortage of repair parts, officials said.

The Royal Australian Air Force accepted delivery of three more F-35As in early March 2018. Two arrived at the integrated training center at Luke AFB on March 8 and the third on March 18. These were the first Australian aircraft delivered with the Block 3F software. Canberra 's first two F-35As, equipped with the Block 3I software, had recently begun modernization at Hill AFB, including structural, hardware and software upgrades to bring them to the Block 3F configuration. Australia was slated to receive five more F-35As by the end of 2018, reported Combat Aircraft for June 2018. The first two F-35As were slated to arrive at RAAF Williamtown in December for Australian-specific validation and verification activities.

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN successfully completed fleet carrier qualifications for the F-35C on March 21, 2018. Pilots from VFA-125 and VFA-101 completed day and night qualifications, including 140 carrier landings ahead of F-35C operational testing later in 2018, the Navy said. The qualifications, which ran from March 17-21, included the first operational use of the F-35Cs foldable wings. Integration work between the ALIS and the carrier was also performed, the service said.

The Naval Air Systems Command issued a notification on March 23, 2018, that it would award Pratt & Whitney a contract in the first quarter of 2019 for an engineering change to the F135 engines fitted to LRIP Lot 1 and Lot 2 F-35s. Lot 1 consisted of two F-35As and Lot 2, six F-35As and six F-35Bs. NAVAIR provided no details on the nature of the upgrade, reported Jane's International Defence Review for May 2018. The command did reveal plans to award Pratt & Whitney and its partners further contracts for an F135 multi-altitude deaerator (MAD) retrofit and for an enhancement to the main fuel throttle valve bellows. Both awards would take place in the first quarter of 2018, said NAVAIR.

On March 28, 2018, the first F-35A for South Korea was rolled out in a ceremony at Lockheed's production facility in Fort Worth. The first six F-35As were to be delivered to Luke AFB as part of the international training fleet there. Deliveries directly to South Korea were slated to begin in 2019 at the air force's main operating base in Cheongju, reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. At the time, Lockheed had delivered more than 280 F-35s, noted Jane's Defence Weekly.

VMFA-122, the Flying Leathernecks, conducted its first F-35B flight operations at MCAS Yuma on March 29, 2018. This marked the end of the first phase of the unit's transition from the F/A-18C Hornet to the Lightning II, said a Marine Corps release. The squadron was the third operational Marine unit to make the transition to the F-35B.

Lockheed Martin received a US$211 million contract on April 2, 2018, for Block 4.1 common capabilities pre-modernization work in support of the F-35 preliminary design review for Air Force and international partners. Work was to be completed in July 2019, said a Pentagon release.

The final system development and demonstration test flight for the F-35 program took place at NAS Patuxent River on April 11, 2018. The developmental flight-test program ran for 11 years, performed more than 9,200 sorties, flew for more than 17,000 hours and evaluated more than 65,000 test points, said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the program executive officer. The final flight involved an F-35C collecting load data while carrying 2,000-lb GBU-31 JDAMs and AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles externally, reported the Naval Air Systems Command. The completion of the trials cleared the Block 3F software for delivery to operational units. The SDD phase would formally conclude following initial operational test and evaluation and a Dept. of Defense decision to move into full-rate production, said NAVAIR. F-35 flight-testing would continue in support of phased capability improvements and modernization.

Breaking Defense reported on April 11, 2018, that the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency had told lawmakers that F-35s could detect, track and potentially shoot down ballistic missiles by 2025. It would take six or seven years to work out the concept of operations and develop the capabilities, whether sensor-based or a new interceptor that could be carried by the F-35, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense. The military had previously tested a missile defense capability for the F-35, including the use of an F-35 infrared sensor to track a missile launch and transmit tracking data over the Link 16 data link. In 2016, a Marine F-35B detected and tracked a missile and passed the data over the Navy's NIFC-CA network to the Aegis missile defense system, which conducted the intercept.

Jane's Missiles & Rockets reported on April 17, 2018, that the U.S. Navy had completed the final development test for the internal integration of the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW ) with the F-35C. The completion of the development program followed a single test-firing of the JSOW from an F-35C at a representative target at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. The final operational test phase for the integration of the JSOW was scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2018. The missile has a range of 70 nm (130 km), which would give the Navy the ability to hit targets deep within hostile air defense networks, noted the National Interest. The F-35C would be able to employ the JSOW once it was equipped with the Block 3F software, reported Defense News.

On April 18, 2018, the U.S. Navy's VFA-147, "Argonauts," conducted its first F-35C flight at NAS Lemoore. The inaugural flight was in support of the unit's transition from the F/A-18E Super Hornet to the Lightning II. The transition began in December 2017 and was slated to be completed in late 2018. VFA-147 was the first Navy operational squadron to receive and field the F-35C, according to a Lockheed Martin release. The squadron was scheduled to make its first deployment with the F-35C aboard USS CARL VINSON in 2021.

British Forces News reported on April 18, 2018, that 617 Squadron had been formally activated as the British Royal Air Force's first operational F-35B squadron. At the time, the U.K. had taken delivery of 15 F-35Bs, officials said.

The April 23, 2018, issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology reported that the Pentagon had begun a comprehensive review of the F-35 supply chain to find opportunities to compete components and repair work in an effort to incentivize suppliers to cut costs and increase efficiencies amid significant parts shortages and growing sustainment costs.

Flight International for April 24, 2018, reported that the F-35 program was shifting from incremental capability upgrades every two years to smaller hardware and software updates every six months. The first upgrade under the continuous capability development and delivery (C2D2) program was expected to be completed in June 2018. This software release, and another due by the end of 2018, would fix shortfalls in the Block 3F software suite. In 2019, the C2D2 program would begin delivering upgrades with new capabilities for flight testing, including an automatic ground collision avoidance system.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$38.5 million contract modification on April 25, 2018. The modification provided additional funding for the low-rate initial production of long lead materials and components for economic order quantity increases for the U.S. Navy in Lot 12 and Italy in Lots 13 and 14. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2019, the Pentagon said in a release.

Flight International for May 1, 2018, reported that the Pentagon had long-term plans to sign a series of cost-saving multi-year procurement contracts with Lockheed Martin to buy nearly 2,000 F-35s starting in fiscal 2021. The Air Force planned to make the transition from annual buys to multi-year buys starting with a three-year deal in 2021. These would be followed by successive five-year buys from fiscal 2024 until the end of the program. The Navy planned to make annual procurements through fiscal 2023, followed by five-year deals thereafter, the magazine said. The Air Force planned to buy 60 F-35As annually beginning in fiscal 2024.

The War Zone website reported on May 17, 2018, that U.S. Air Force pilots had nicknamed the F-35, calling it the Panther . The moniker originated with the 6th Weapons Squadron, part of the Air Force Weapons School.

On May 22, 2018, the Norwegian air force received three additional F-35A aircraft. The jets arrived at Orland Air Base, bringing the fleet in Norway to six. Seven other F-35s were based at Luke AFB for training. The air force was scheduled to receive six new F-35s annually until 2024, said a Norwegian Ministry of Defense release. Initial operational capability was expected in 2019, with full operational capability to follow in 2025.

Lockheed Martin received a US$19.9 million contract modification on May 24, 2018, for additional radar upgrades to U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps F-35 Block 3F aircraft. Work was scheduled to be completed in June 2021.

The Canadian Press reported on May 30, 2018, that Ottawa had paid an additional Can$54 million (US$41 million) toward the F-35 development program. The payment brought Canada's total investment in the program over the previous 20 years to about Can$500 million (US$380 million). The Canadian government planned to launch a formal competition in 2019 to select a replacement for its aging CF-18 Hornet fighters.

On May 31, 2018, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$2 billion contract modification in support of F-35 LRIP Lot 11 production. The deal covered Lot 11 production propulsion systems, including 10 F135-PW-100 engines for the U.S. Navy; 51 F135-PW-100 engines for the Air Force; 24 F135-PW-600 engines for the Marine Corps; and 49 F135-PW-100 engines and one F135-PW-600 for non-Dept. of Defense participants and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work was scheduled to be completed in May 2021.

The first four British F-35Bs arrived at their home station of RAF Marham in Norfolk on June 6, 2018. The jets, assigned to 617 Squadron, flew from MCAS Beaufort where they had been training with the U.S. Marine Corps. All were fitted with the Block 3F software, reported Aviation Week & Space Technology for July 2, 2018. Britain had not yet opted to acquire the external gun pod for its F-35Bs, the magazine noted. The fighters arrived in the U.K. two months ahead of schedule, according to a release from the U.K. Ministry of Defense. A new phase of testing was scheduled to begin in the fall, including the first landing of an F-35 on the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH . Plans called for the F-35B to be declared operational for land operations by the end of 2018.

On June 14, 2018, assembly of the first European-built F-35A began at the Cameri facility in northern Italy, reported Defense News. The aircraft was the ninth of 37 ordered by the Netherlands. The jet was slated to be completed in February 2019 before arriving in the Netherlands in October 2019 after trials. It would be the first F-35 to be stationed in the Netherlands, said a Dutch air force spokesman.

The first eight Dutch F-35As were being assembled at Fort Worth, with the initial jet to be completed in January 2018. Six or seven of these aircraft would be sent to Luke AFB for pilot training, the spokesman said. Two F-35s were already being used for testing at Edwards AFB, noted the Aviationist blog.

Lockheed Martin announced on June 13, 2018, that it had selected Raytheon to develop and deliver the next-generation distributed aperture system (DAS ) for the F-35. The new system would be integrated beginning with Lot 15 aircraft, with deliveries expected to begin in 2023. The new DAS was expected to generate more than US$3 billion in lifecycle cost savings; 45 percent reduction in unit recurring cost; more than 50 percent reduction in operations and sustainment costs; five times greater reliability; and twice the performance capability. The new DAS would also indirectly benefit aircraft readiness and service personnel requirements, said Lockheed. Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the original DAS , had declined to bid for the follow-on DAS contract, noted

Flight International for June 19, 2018, reported that the U.S. Air Force had taken delivery of the 300th F-35 aircraft. Lockheed Martin said it had delivered 197 F-35As, 75 F-35Bs and 28 F-35Cs at the time.

Lockheed Martin handed over the first two F-35As to the Turkish air force at its facility in Fort Worth on June 21, 2018. The aircraft were scheduled to then go to Luke AFB for training operations. The third and fourth jets were due to be handed over in March 2019, according to Turkey's official Anadolu Agency. The fifth and sixth were to be delivered in November 2019 and would go directly to Turkey. The jets were scheduled to be stationed at the 7th Main Jet Base Command in the eastern Malatya province. The first Turkish F-35A had made its maiden flight on May 10, 2018, noted the Aviationist blog. Two Turkish air force pilots were being trained at the time, with the initial jets slated to be delivered to Turkey in September 2019. There were questions at the time about when the jets might arrive in Turkey, due to efforts in both houses of the U.S. Congress to block the transfer. Lawmakers were concerned about democratic backsliding in Turkey as well as its plans to acquire the Russian S-400 air defense system.

On June 24, 2018, the Israeli air force took delivery of three additional F-35I aircraft at the Nevatim Air Base. The jets were expected to soon join operational activities with the 140th Squadron, reported

Flight International for June 26, 2018, reported that Pratt & Whitney had added power and thermal management upgrades to a list of options available for the F135 powerplant. If funded by customers, the Growth Option 2.0 package would support new avionics and systems capabilities planned for the F-35, company officials said. The Joint Program Office had not funded any Growth Option upgrades at the time. It had told Pratt & Whitney that the F-35 required improvements beyond thrust and fuel efficiency, such as greater electrical power generation to support planned avionics and system upgrades. As these increase, the propulsion system must be able to absorb more heat from the electrical system. The GO 2.0 upgrades would be available by 2023, along with the initial thrust and fuel efficiency improvements, company officials said. The JPO had not yet indicated how potential powerplant upgrades would fit into the new Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) program, which aimed to introduce smaller capability improvements at six-month intervals.

Additional power and thermal management capability would enable the use of directed-energy weapons and other advanced offensive and defensive systems, reported Aviation Week & Space Technology.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$20 million contract modification on June 29, 2018, for low-rate production Lot 10 ALIS 3.0 rollout. The contract covered the ALIS 3.0 software fleet release and installation into operational and production ALIS assets. Work was to be completed in December 2018.

On June 29, 2018, Kongsberg announced that it had signed a US$83 million contract with the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency for JSM test missiles for the integration phase with the F-35. Following a successful test flight in March and finalization of the development phase in June, the program had begun the F-35 integration phase, which was scheduled to run to 2023. The project involved the delivery of test missiles, captive-carry, safe-separation and live-firing trials, the company said.

The British Royal Air Force was working to establish communications between its F-35s and Eurofighter Typhoons via Link 16 data links under its Babel Fish program, reported Aviation Week & Space Technology for July 2, 2018. The most important element was determining what information should be shared and when and ensuring the correct protocols were in place, officials said. There are concerns that use of the less stealthy Link 16 data link could expose F-35s using it to detection.

On Aug. 17, 2018, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$26.1 million contract for engineering work with the F-35 ALIS Security Architecture Phase III design, development, integration and test of the ALIS Sovereign Data Management (SDM) system. The effort would provide international partners the ability to review and block messages to prevent sovereign data loss. It also covered studies and recommendations to improve the ALIS security architecture, according to a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed in June 2020. Data that operators could block would include the names of pilots; aircraft location and aircraft availability, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office.

The award followed concerns from foreign partners about the data being collected and stored by the aircraft and ALIS, as well as security breaches and links, should the system go down, particularly during a crisis, reported the War Zone website. ALIS collects a large amount of data on aircraft systems to help ground crews identify and fix problems. This data is also sent back to the F-35 JPO and Lockheed Martin, so that specialists can monitor the condition of components or other developing issues that might need to be addressed. It also handles mission data packages, including all information that may have been recorded by aircraft sensors, which could cover national security secrets, such as records of a jet's flight path and mission profile; communications data; video imagery; electronic signatures and locations of friendly and hostile radars and other emitters; and potential details of a country's tactics, techniques and procedures. There were additional concerns that information on Lockheed servers could be vulnerable to cyber attacks, whether directly against the firm or against one of its subcontractors.

Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 22, 2018, that Lockheed Martin had been "late to contract requirements" in providing 209 of 308 F-35s to the U.S. and international customers through June 30, according to the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Program Office said they expected on-time delivery for all 91 jets due in 2018, the DCMA predicted that seven would be handed over late. By early September, the Pentagon was expected to complete the award of a potential US$11 billion contract for 141 F-35s for the U.S. and foreign customers in the 11th production batch. A US$5.6 billion initial payment was awarded in July 2017.

The DCMA said that despite considerable investments by the Defense Dept. and Lockheed to "improve the capacity and quality of the F-35 manufacturing process" aircraft were "were still being produced behind schedule with a high number of defects." A Lockheed spokeswoman said that defects per delivered aircraft had dropped with each lot and that the time needed for reworking and repairs had fallen by 79 percent since the initial early production contract.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a US$118.2 million contract modification on Aug. 30, 2018, for initial spares, including four F135-PW-600 (STOVL) engines for the U.S. Marine Corps; one power module and gearbox; four lift fan modules; and eight drive shafts in support of the service's low-rate production Lot 11 F-35s. Work was scheduled to be completed in August 2021.

On Sept. 13, 2018, the U.K. Ministry of Defense issued a six-month progress report on the F-35 program. By the end of the fiscal year, the ministry anticipated seeking approval from the Investment Approvals Committee to spend an additional 1.1 billion pounds (US$1.4 billion) of its assigned budget on capability development, enhanced reprogramming capability and sustainment for the F-35B. The LRIP Lot 10 price for British F-35Bs was US$122.3 million only covered the airframe and engine and did not included U.K.-unique elements, which were expected to add US$2 million per aircraft.

The ministry noted that the Babel Fish III trial in 2016 assessed communications between the F-35 MADL and fourth-generation aircraft. The report on the tests was received in April 2018, which led the ministry to commission the Babel Fish IV trial later in the year. That evaluation will focus on how information will flow from fourth-generation aircraft, namely the Eurofighter Typhoon , through the gateway to allow manipulation via high-end processing on the F-35.

The Australian Dept. of Defense announced on Sept. 18, 2018, that it had accepted the first F-35A to be operated by the air force's No. 3 Squadron. The delivery brought the Australian F-35A fleet to nine aircraft. The first eight were assigned to the international training center at Luke AFB.

Defense News reported on Sept. 20, 2018, that Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld had eliminated the government's budget cap for F-35 procurement, opening the possibility of purchasing additional jets in the future. A ministry spokesman said the move was a "formality" that would not require parliamentary approval. Plans to buy 37 F-35s remained in place. There was not an option to buy additional aircraft, the spokesman said. Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that the air force was hoping to eventually acquire 67 jets, which would be enough to field four squadrons. The Netherlands was scheduled to receive eight F-35s in 2019 in addition to two test aircraft already delivered. The Netherlands had been under pressure from NATO that 37 F-35s was not enough, according to analysts.

Flight Global reported on Sept. 18, 2018, that Lockheed Martin believed that initial results from static, drop and durability testing of the F-35A could indicate the potential for an increased service life for the jet. The airframe was designed for 8,000 hours. Each test airframe was required to successfully complete 16,000 hours of testing. The F-35A exceeded the requirement, completing 24,000 hours of testing, leading Lockheed to consider the service-life extension.

Lockheed Martin announced on Sept. 28, 2018, that it had finalized a US$11.5 billion Lot 11 contract with the Pentagon for 141 F-35s at the lowest unit cost yet. The F-35A unit cost, including the engine and fee, was US$89.2 million, a 5.4 percent reduction from the US$94.3 million price tag under Lot 10. F-35B unit cost was US$115.5 million, a 5.7 percent reduction from US$122.4 million in Lot 10. Unit cost for the F-35C was US$107.7 million, an 11.1 percent cut, from the US$121.2 million in Lot 10. The deal covers 91 aircraft for the U.S.; 28 for international partners; and 22 for Foreign Military Sales customers. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2019.

On Oct. 1, 2018, the Navy activated a Joint Strike Fighter Wing in Lemoore, Calif., to oversee the training, staffing and readiness of all of the service's F-35C squadrons. Unlike other aircraft communities, which have East and West Coast wings, the JSF Wing will be the only F-35C wing, to provide a single voice and path as the Navy learned how to operate, maintain, sustain and staff the fleet.

The U.S. Air Force announced on Oct. 3, 2018, that F-22 and F-35 flights were asked to fly closer to the maximum range airspeed of the jets, while still within tanker boom limits, during Coronet missions. The latter involve flights across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans to deliver new aircraft or rotate jets to new bases. In August 2017, Air Force Operational Energy demonstrated that increased speeds during such deployments decrease fuel consumption. During the demonstration, the faster aircraft were able to reduce total flight time by about 10 percent and fuel consumption by about 6 percent.

On Oct. 22, 2018, the Belgian government announced that it had selected the F-35 to replace its aging F-16 fighters, reported Defense News. The Lightning II was selected over the Eurofighter Typhoon and a new modernization program for its F-16s. Belgium planned to buy 34 F-35As. Defense Minister Steven Vandeput said that the F-35 beat the other contenders in all seven selection criteria.

Also on Oct. 22, the Australian Dept. of Defense announced that it had taken delivery of its 10th F-35A. The aircraft was delivered to No. 3 Squadron at Luke AFB, the department said.

Raytheon announced on Oct. 31, 2018, that its Ship Self-Defense System had established a digital air connection between a U.S. Navy ship and a Marine Corps F-35B for the first time. The milestone demonstrated the ability of the combat system to share digital tactical data from an F-35 across an Expeditionary Strike Group. The Link 16 Digital Air Control (DAC) capability provides tactical, wireless integration between surface ships and aircraft, enhancing shared situational awareness. Shared data can include detected targets; mission assignment and engagement status exchange (without voice communication); and aircraft status information, such as fuel levels or weapons inventory, according to Raytheon. The company modified the SSDS Mk 2 baseline to establish the DAC interface. The capability was developed, tested and delivered to USS WASP in about 18 months. Other SSDS Mk 2-equipped ships will be upgraded to include the Link 16 DAC capability, said Raytheon. The SSDS is an open, distributed combat management system installed on aircraft carriers and amphibious warships.

On Nov. 2, 2018, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$130 million contract modification in support of the F-35 Block 4 pre-modernization Phase II project. The deal covered pre-modernization requirements decomposition and design work for Block 4.1 partner participant weapon capabilities for maturation to successfully complete an air system requirements review, said a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2020.

Lockheed Martin received a US$22.7 billion contract modification on Nov. 14, 2018, for 255 F-35 aircraft. The deal covered 106 F-35s for the U.S. (64 F-35As for the Air Force; 26 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps; and 16 F-35Cs for the Navy); 89 F-35s for non-DoD participants (71 F-35As and 18 F-35Bs); and 60 F-35As for Foreign Military Sales customers. The U.S. aircraft were for Lot 12 plus fiscal 2018/2019 congressional adds, said a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2023.

The contract was also part of initiating a block buy for future F-35 orders and amended the deal to permit international customers to purchase the 12th, 13th and 14th lots together, reported Defense News. The contract award immediately obligated US$6 billion to Lockheed and set a cap of US$22.7 billion for U.S. orders under low-rate production Lot 12 and Lots 12, 13 and 14 for international customers. It also covered long lead items for Lot 14, the newspaper said.

The Fifth Domain reported on Nov. 14, 2018, that the U.S. Air Force was continuing to work to eliminate cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the F-35's external support systems, which were considered the easiest entry points into the aircraft for hackers. Service officials said that the information backbone of the actual jet, which is managed by Lockheed Martin, was considered relatively safe due to "multilayer security protections. Vulnerabilities increase as you move away from the aircraft, including the Autonomic Logistics Information System or the Joint Reprogramming Environment. Work was focused on boosting the security of such nodes, officials said. There are also concerns about the F-35 flight simulator, which could be an enticing target for hackers seeking information about the F-35. The use of wireless applications to simplify maintenance on the flight line could result in new vulnerabilities, said the officials.

On Nov. 15, 2018, the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced that it had ordered 17 more F-35B jets.The order would bring the British fleet to 35 jets, with 16 delivered at the time. Deliveries would take place from 2022 to 2022. The aircraft were part of the 225-jet order announced on Nov. 14.

Also on Nov. 15, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$83.1 million contract for the development, integration, certification and testing of dual-capable aircraft capability, including hardware and software, into Air Force F-35As. The project would enable the jet to employ the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb, noted Aviation Week & Space Technology. The dual-capable F-35A would replace F-16s now in the role. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in February 2024.

The U.S. Air Force reactivated the 308th Fighter Squadron for the F-35 program at Luke AFB on Nov. 30, 2018. The squadron would house Dutch and Danish F-35As as part of a training partnership. The unit was scheduled to begin operations in December 2018. Over the following two years, the Dutch and Danish air forces would send their jets to populate the squadron and contribute to the F-35 training mission at Luke AFB, said an Air Force release. The 308th was the fourth F-35 squadron at Luke.

Defense One reported on Dec. 6, 2018, that the Pentagon had awarded C3, Redwood City, Calif., to develop a product to shrink the amount of time it takes to compile the mission data files for the F-35 from up to 18 months to one month. Development was scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2019. C3 plans to use data aggregation and artificial intelligence capabilities to process the data files significantly faster. The current process is heavily manual because the data sources and types are so diverse and frequently unstructured. The goal is to automate the process of looking through sources and present the operator with a list of issues, such as potential discrepancies in intelligence, and make recommendations.

C3 is also working on software to combine information from sources such as the Autonomic Logistics Information System to create a complete picture of what is going on with a particular aircraft. It would also integrate operational data, sorties flown, weather, the history of specific parts and other information to better preposition parts and maintainers to support rapid repairs and modifications. 

Also on Dec. 6, 2018, the F-35 program office announced that the jet had officially started operational testing. Initial operational test and evaluation would identify areas for improvement in the most stressing operational environments, reported Defense News. The formal start of the trials was several months later than originally anticipated and 16 months behind the test plan prepared in 2012, according to Breaking Defense. The program office hoped to complete IOT&E by the end of summer 2019. 

The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 18, 2018, that the Japanese Cabinet had approved a new defense plan, which included increasing Tokyo's F-35 order from 42 aircraft to 147. Up to 42 F-35Bs would be acquired as part of the plan, according to the Financial Times (U.K.). The STOVL jets would be operated from the IZUMO-class helicopter carriers, which would be modified to accommodate the aircraft. The project aimed to improve Japan's ability to defend its remote islands, including the disputed Senkakus in the East China Sea. The procurement was estimated to cost around US$10 billion. The defense ministry wanted to replace about half of its 200 F-15s, which cannot be upgraded, with F-35s, while modernizing the remaining jets, reported the Nikkei Asian Review.

Lockheed Martin received a US$22.1 million contract modification on Dec. 20, 2018, for sovereign data merge capabilities to ensure the integrity and protection of country unique data from those F-35 operators that use the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). Work was scheduled to be completed in November 2019.

On Dec. 27, 2018, Lockheed Martin was awarded a US$712.5 million contract for the development of advanced hardware in support of the F-35 Technology Refresh 3 (TR3) system. The deal covered design of the system through full flightworthy certification, production readiness review and fleet release in support of low-rate production Lot 15 jets. Work was slated to be completed in March 2023. The TR3 upgrade is part of the Block 4 follow-on modernization program, also known as Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2), noted Jane's Defence Weekly.

Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., received a US$230 million contract on Dec. 28, 2018, for testing support for the F-35 Propulsion System Block 4 flight-test program. The deal covered technical engineering, flight-test support, special tooling and test equipment and spare and repair parts, said a Pentagon release. Work was to be completed in December 2023.


On Jan. 9, 2020, the U.S. State Dept. approved a potential sale of up to 12 F-35B jets to Singapore. The possible US$2.75 billion deal covered four aircraft, with options for eight more; 13 F135 engines; electronic warfare systems; command, control, communication, computers and intelligence/communication, navigation and identification (C4I/CNI) systems; the Autonomic Logistics Global Support System (ALGS); the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS); training systems; support; and personnel training.

Defense News noted that Singapore typically buys fighters in small batches. If the purchase was completed, the F-35Bs would likely be used to begin replacing Singapore's fleet of 60 F-16C/D Block 52/52+ jets and further F-35 orders would be expected.

Reuters reported on Jan. 14, 2020, that Lockheed would develop a replacement computerized logistics system for the F-35. The Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) would replace the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) by December 2022, except for F-35s deployed remotely or on ships. The work would be covered under the current ALIS funding profile without additional cost to the government, said Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's acquisitions chief. ODIN would be streamlined for efficiency and integrate input from pilots and maintainers. The cloud-based system would deliver data in near real time on aircraft and system performance and feature strengthened cybersecurity provisions, Lord said.

On Jan. 16, 2020, Israel stood up its second F-35I squadron at Nevatim Airbase. The 116th Squadron, Lions of the South, joined the 140th Squadron as the air force's F-35 units. The 140th would transfer several aircraft to the 116th pending additional aircraft deliveries, reported the Jerusalem Post. Israel had received 20 F-35Is at the time. Plans called for a total of 50 jets to fill out two squadrons by 2024. Six aircraft were due for delivery in 2020, noted the newspaper.

The first F-35C for the U.S. Marine Corps arrived at MCAS Miramar, Calif., on Jan. 21, 2020.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on Jan. 23, 2020, that Lockheed Martin had set up a dedicated final assembly line for the F-35C to address production issues that emerged in 2019. The F-35C was slated to reach full-rate production in 2019, but was held back by unspecified production problems, the program office told the magazine. To get production back on schedule, the company established a dedicated final assemly line, increased training for F-35C mechanics and improved supplier performance, officials said.

On Jan. 31, 2020, Poland signed a US$4.6 billion contract with the U.S. for 32 F-35As. The deal also included a training and logistics package. Deliveries were scheduled to begin in 2024. The F-35 was expected to replace aging Su-22 and MiG-29 jets in Polish service.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockhed Martin a US$347.7 million contract modification on Feb. 7, 2020, for long lead materials, parts, components and support for the production and delivery of 43 Lot 15 F-35s for non-Defense Dept. and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2023.

On March 3, 2020, Lockheed Martin delivered the 500th F-35 fighter to be built, reported Flight Global. The aircraft was an F-35A that would be assigned to the Vermont Air National Guard, the company said. The jets delivered at the time included 354 F-35As, 108 F-35Bs and 38 F-35Cs. The fleet had also surpassed the 250,000 flight-hour mark, including U.S. and international aircraft used for testing, training and operations.

On March 20, 2020, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) received its safe-for-flight certification for the F-35C carrier jet.

The U.S. Air Force announced on April 15, 2020, that it had selected the next two Air National Guard sites where F-35A jets would be stationed. The 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field, Wis., and 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field, Ala., were scheduled to begin receiving F-35s in 2023, the service said.

Lockheed Martin received a US$129 million NAVAIR contract modification on April 30, 2020, for modification and retrofit kits for F-35A jets previously delivered to the U.S. Air Force and Norway. The order combined purchases from the Air Force (US$107.8 million, 83 percent) and Norway ($21.4 million, 17 percent) said a Pentagon release. Work was to be completed by April 2025.

Defense News reported on May 19, 2020, that Lockheed Martin indicated that it had slowed F-35 production due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which would reduce the total number of aircraft it would deliver in 2020. The company said it would produce 18 to 24 fewer jets than the 141 scheduled for delivery. The pandemic had made it difficult for Lockheed's supply chain to produce components on time. Accordingly, the company was slowing its production over the following three months, officials said. Lockheed aimed to ramp up production as soon as possible to minimize late deliveries. Once the supply chain fully recovered, it would take two to three months to return to full-rate production, said the officials.

On May 29, 2020, Bloomberg News reported that the Pentagon's latest estimate for the development and procurement of F-35 jets had fallen 7.1 percent to US$397.8 billion. Operations and maintenance costs over 66 years had increased 7.8 percent over the 2019 estimate, totaling US$1.182 trillion. The Selected Acquisition Report also estimated that a total of 809 aircraft to international partners, up from the 764 projected the previous year. The document also indicated that previous plans to procure 94 F-35s in fiscal 2022 would be cut by nine. Ninety-four jets would be purchased in 2023 and 2024, with 96 to be procuredin 2025. A total of 79 jets had been requested in fiscal 2021.

The assessment attributed the reduction in acquisition costs to using production performance data from Lockheed and its subcontractors rather than projections.

Lockheed Martin received a US$26.8 million NAVAIR contract on June 1, 2020, for non-recurring engineering efforts to develop and certify a retrofit solution to support the structural requirements for full-up destruction and suppression of enemy air defense capabilities for Lot 14 and Lot 15 F-35s for the U.S. Air Force and international partners, said a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed by August 2022.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$368 million contract modification on June 11, 2020, for five F-35As and one F-35B and associated equipment for Italy. Work under the contract was due to be completed by June 2023.

Jane's reported on June 24, 2020, that the U.K. might not upgrade all of its F-35Bs to the Block 4 configuration. Minister of State for Defense Procurement Jeremy Quin told the House of Commons that while the full combat Block 4 upgrade had been costed into the British procurement program, the specific number of already delivered jets to receive the modernization had not been determined. The decision would be based on military capability requirements. By the time the Block 4 configuration comes online around 2026, the U.K, would have received all 48 F-35Bs that London had committed to buy, which could cost around 1 billion pounds (US$1.2 billion), analysts said. The U.K. had also committed to installing the new Raytheon Distributed Aperture System (DAS) on its aircraft, which would likely consume a large portion of any wider retrofit budget.

On June 29, 2020, Lockheed Martin received a US$360.8 million NAVAIR contract modification for four Lot 14 F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy. Work was to be completed by May 2023.

The U.S. Defense Security and Cooperation Agency reported on July 9, 2020, that Japan wanted to buy additional F-35s through the Foreign Military Sales program. The proposed US$23.1 billion deal covered 63 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs; 110 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines (five spares); electronic warfare systems; command, control, communications, computers and intelligence/communications, navigation and identification (C4I/CNI) systems; autonomic logistics global support system, Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS); flight mission trainer; weapons employment capability; and associated equipment, technical and logistics support. The aircraft would enhance Japan's air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities and replace its aging fleet of F-4 fighters, said a DSCA release.

The Naval Air Systems Command awareded Lockheed a US$87.5 million contract on July 13, 2020, for non-recurring engineering work for the development and maturation of the ALIS in support of data migration and transition to the newly developed F-35 Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN). The deal also covered software and hardware engineering in support of F-35 ODIN development, delivery and associated data management activities for U.S. military and non-U.S. F-35 program participants, said a Defense Dept. release. Work was expected to conclude by June 2022.

Defense News reported on July 20, 2020, that the U.S. Air Force would officially buy eight F-35As originally built for Turkey under a US$862 million contract modification. The deal also covered work to bring the ex-Turkish jets to the Air Force configuration and six additional F-35As for the service. The modification fulfilled the stipulations of fiscal 2020 defense spending bills and directed eight Lot 14 aircraft originally intended for delivery to Turkey in fiscal 2022 and 2023 to the Air Force. The six other F-35As were aircraft added to the fiscal 2020 defense budget. The fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act included US$30 million for the Pentagon to fly the first six F-35As purchased by Turkey under Lots 10 and 11 to a location where they could be stored pending a decision on their use. The Senate version of the fiscal 2021 defense budget included funding to enable the Air Force to accept, operate and modify the former Turkish jets.

Defense One reported on Aug. 3, 2020, that the U-2 had served as an airborne communications relay between an F-35 fighter and Army air defense systems during a recent demonstration. During the Orange Flag demonstration at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in July, a U-2 collected targeting data from Air Force F-35As. The F-35s also sent the information through a ground station to a Lockheed Airborne Sensor Adaptation Kit to a surrogate Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS), which is designed to bring together a variety of Army sensor and weapon systems. The addition of the U-2 built on a January demonstration that saw F-35s pass target data to the IBCS, which shot down test targets.

F-35 data collected from the U-2 airborne relay would help validate that a single IBCS Airborne Sensor A-kit can serve multiple pathways to obtain data from the F-35 and other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, said Lockheed. Tying F-35 information through the A-kit into IBCS provides an immediate capability to combine that data with ground sensor data for air and missile defense and pass it on to air defense weapons, such as the PAC-3, company officials said. The F-35 data can be used no matter the type of target being tracked.

The demonstration extends the range of the F-35 as a sensor platform, improves the effectiveness of the IBCS and enhances the U-2's relevance to modern conflicts, analysts said.

Four additional F-35Is were delivered to Israel on Aug. 4, 2020, reported the War Zone website. The delivery included a bespoke test aircraft for the Israeli test center at Tel Nof Air Base. The unique jet, designated AS-15, is the first dedicated test aircraft outside of the U.S. Israel said it would be used for trials focused on munitions, advanced operating systems and other capabilities. The aircraft was designed with various signal- and information-collection equipment.

On Aug. 9, 2020, Israel's second F-35I squadron was declared operational, about six months after it had been activated. The 116th Squadron, "Lions of the South," is based at Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel, reported the Jerusalem Post. The operational declaration came after the unit completed a week-long operational fitness inspection, which evaluated its air and ground crew under various combat scenarios, including a missile strike on the squadron. The air force anticipated receiving 27 F-35Is by November 2020, with a total of 50 to fill out two squadrons to be delivered by 2024. reported on Aug. 21, 2020, that the F-35 would go into full production by March 2021 following a series of delays, including restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, citing Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. She was scheduled to visit Naval Air Station Patuxent River before the end of the month to discuss issues with the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) facility for flight operations testing. There had been setbacks with the JSE that affected the ability of the F-35 program to reach full-rate production, said Lord. At the time, more than 440 F-35s had been delivered around the world. Full-rate production would permit Lockheed to increase output to nearly 160 jets annually, the news website said.

The JoongAng Daily (Seoul) reported on Aug. 25, 2020, that South Korea planned to buy an additional 40 F-35s at a cost of US$6.7 billion. Priority would be given to the purchase of 20 F-35Bs to equip the navy's planned light aircraft carrier, which is expected to enter service in the early 2030s. Another 20 F-35As would be ordered after that. The plans were expected to be ratified at a Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting in October 2020. The decision to expedite the F-35 procurement was made to enable planners to design the light carrier in line with the F-35B's specifications. At the time, South Korea had received 16 of the 40 F-35As it ordered, with the balance to be handed over by the end of 2021.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$70.8 million contract modification on Sept. 17, 2020, for work on the F-35 Super Multifunction Aircraft Data Link Band 5 receiver warning capability in support of U.S. and non-Dept. of Defense participants. Work under the contract was to be completed by June 2023.

The Australian Dept. of Defense reported on Sept. 21, 2020, that it had recently accepted delivery of its 30th F-35.

On Sept. 29, 2020, a Marine Corps F-35B squadron at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., became the first unit to receive the first batch of hardware needed for the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN), which is intended to replace the problematic Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), reported Defense News on Oct. 22, 2020. ODIN is scheduled to supersede ALIS by December 2022, when all F-35 units are scheduled to have the new hardware and accompanying software. The F-35 Joint Program Office said that the ODIN hardware was already demonstrating superior performance, even while paired with the latest ALIS software. The new hardware is significantly smaller than the servers and computing systems then-used to support ALIS, the JPO said. Existing ALIS servers weigh about 800 lb (360 kg) and consist of an electronic rack the size of a person and require additional backup power modules. This makes the system difficult to deploy, the office said. Meanwhile, ODIN consists of two transportable cases, each about the size of carry-on luggage and weighing less than 70 lb (32 kg). The new hardware also offers processing speeds about twice that of the legacy hardware. ODIN will be a cloud-based system with applications that can be regularly updated with user feedback, said the program office. The first squadron is expected to fully move to the ODIN system in the fall of 2021, officials said.

On Oct. 20, 2020, the Yonhap news agency (Seoul) reported that South Korea had taken delivery of 24 F-35As. The remainder of the 40 jets ordered were scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2021, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration. Facilities to store all of the jets would be completed by December 2020, the agency said.

Also on Oct. 20, Pratt & Whitney announced that it had received a US$1.5 million contract to perform a modernization and operational assessment study for the F135 engine to determine specific propulsion system growth requirements for F-35 Block 4.2 aircraft and beyond. The study is expected to be completed in March 2021. Pratt & Whitney would assess F135 engine enhancements needed to support future F-35 weapon system capability requirements across all three variants starting with Block 4.2 jets. The study would focus on potential improvements to up and away thrust; powered lift thrust; power and thermal management capacity; and fuel burn reduction.

Bloomberg News reported on Oct. 26, 2020, that the Pentagon had delayed the full-rate production of the F-35 after combat simulation testing required for the decision was pushed into 2021. The trials were originally scheduled for 2017 and then December 2020. Challenges in completing the technical preparations for the testing forced the delays. Had the testing taken place, a full-rate production decision was anticipated in March 2021. The decision was expected to be made two or three months after the trials concluded. Low-rate production would continue until full-rate production was authorized, Pentagon officials said. As of Oct. 1, 2020, more than 570 F-35s had been delivered to the U.S. and its partners. The one-month joint simulation environment combat test would use a full replica of the F-35 cockpit rigged with its combat sensors and electronics.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency reported on Nov. 10, 2020, that the U.S. State Dept. had approved a potential US$10.4 billion Foreign Military Sale of F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates. The proposed deal covered 50 F-35A jets; 54 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines (four spares); electronic warfare systems; command, control, communications, computer and intelligence/communications, navigation and identification (C4I/CNI) systems; autonomic logistsc global support (ALGS); operational data integrated network (ODIN); air system training devices; weapons employment capabilities and subsystems; F-35-specific chaff and flares; spare and repair parts; and other associated equipment and technical and logistics support. The F-35s would provide the U.A.E. with a credible deterrent capability and improve interoperability with the U.S., the DSCA said.

The Israeli air force received its first F-35I test aircraft at its test flight center at Tel Nof AFB on Nov. 11, 2020. It was the first F-35 test aircraft to be located outside of the U.S. The aircraft would be used to support the development of independent Israeli capabilities for its F-35Is.

On Nov. 16, 2020, the Greek City Times (Sydney, Australia) reported that the Greek government had sent an official letter of request to the U.S. government for the purchase of F-35 jets. Athens was seeking 18 to 24 aircraft, including potentially used U.S. jets. A procurement decision would be based on delivery schedule, repayment plan and configuration of the planes. The letter said that Greece required initial deliveries in 2021 due to "internal fiscal arrangements and other applicable rules within the E.U. budget and deficit framework." The acquisition, along with the purchase of 18 Rafale fighters from France, was intended to restore the balance of power with Turkey following its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense systems.

The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a US$9.3 million contract on Nov. 23, 2020, that covered the integration of the AARGM-ER missile with the F-35A Lightning II stealthy fighter. The missile would give the Air Force F-35A an advanced suppression of enemy air defenses/destruction of enemy air defenses (SEAD/DEAD) capability, said a Pentagon release.

On Dec. 9, 2020, the Air Force demonstrated the ability of fifth-generation aircraft to share operational data in their secure, native digital languages with and through multiple sources for the first time. The test showed off the capability of the open architecture underpinning the in-development Advanced Battle Management System. The joint event involved a Marine Corps F-35B, Air Force F-35As and F-22s and an XQ-58A Valkyrie drone. Preparatory testing took place at Nellis AFB, and the primary trials at Yuma Proving Ground. Eighteen objectives were established for the trials, with nine achieved, said Air Force Lifecycle Management Center officials.

During the testing, the Valkyrie was equipped with a gatewayOne payload, which translated between the F-35's Multifunctional Advanced Data Link (MADL) and the F-22's Intra-flight Data Link and moved data that would normally be relegated to a ground operations center or tactical node, pushing it directly to pilots in the cockpit for the first time, according to the Air Force News Service. The trials also pushed platform position data beyond each aircraft's individual formation through the gatewayOne payload, enabling battle managers to better orchestrate operations. The payload also passed tracks or cues from ground operators to both fighters and passed a cue from an F-35 to an F-22 for the first time. These bi-directional communication pathways occured in each platforms' native language and the data were displayed through onboard systems, said the Air Force.

Other successful tests included establishing communications between a KC-46 tanker and a ground node using commercial internet routing standards over the Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) waveform and the F-35B sending full-motion video to a ground controller. The Valkyrie also performed a semi-autonomous flight alongside the F-35 and F-22 for the first time. The gatewayOne payload was integrated into the air vehicle for this initial flight to evaluate gateway capabilities from a drone platform. However, shortly after takeoff, the communication payload lost connectivity and those test objectives could not be completed, the Air Force said.

The Air Force reported on Dec. 17, 2020, that a team at Hanscom AFB, Mass., had helped field an interim full-motion video capability for the F-35B. The new system, which provides a video stream combined with associated location metadata in a single video file, replaced the F-35B Combat Training System. The new capability would enable the jet to send live video to ground forces to more effectively coordinate air operations against hostile forces near friendly troops, the service said. The interim capability would support F-35 operations until a full-motion video capability could be provided enterprise-wide by 2024. The Marine Corps had requested development of the interim full-motion video capability in August 2016. The interim system can be easily exchanged for the Combat Training System as required, said the Air Force. The interim system had a range of more than 50 nm (90 km) and demonstrated interoperability with a range of ground receivers and other aircraft.

Lockheed Martin announced on Dec. 28, 2020, that it had recently delivered the 123rd F-35 of the year. The aircraft was in the F-35A configuration and delivered to the Italian air force, the company said. In 2020, 74 F-35s were delivered to the U.S.; 31 to international partner countries; and 18 to Foreign Military Sales customers. Due to supplier delays caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Lockheed had revised its planned deliveries for the year from 141 to 117-123 in May. At the time, the global F-35 fleet had surpassed 350,000 cumulative flight hours. Lockheed also touted the initial fielding of the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN), the follow-on system to the ALIS, saying it had demonstrated excellent initial performance. That system would be fully operational in 2022. Meanwhile, the aircraft achieved mission-capable rates greater than 70 percent across the fleet and even higher in operational units, said the company.


The War Zone website reported on Jan. 3, 2022, that the Navy was seeking contractor assistance to put three early F-35 models (two F-35Bs and an F-35C), which were no longer needed for testing, into storage. The decision reflected progress in moving the F-35 program out of the testing phase, with hopes that the Pentagon might authorize full-rate production later in 2022. At the time, more than 750 F-35s had been delivered. The Naval Air Systems Command said in a Dec. 30, 2021, contracting notice that the three integrated test force flight science aircraft were no longer needed due to the conclusion of the system design and development phase. The jets were to be preserved and transported elsewhere for later service, the command.

At the same time, Lockheed reported that it delivered 142 F-35s of all variants in 2021. Overall deliveries totaled 753 aircraft, with 53 percent having been handed over in the previous three years, experts said.

On Jan. 6, 2022, the F-35 formally took over the quick-reaction alert mission for the Norwegian air force and NATO, replacing the F-16, which had performed the mission for 42 years, reported the Norwegian armed forces. The ceremony marking the transition took place at Evenes air base in northern Norway. The air force maintained two aircraft on standby, ready to launch in 15 minutes should an unknown aircraft near Norwegian airspace. The service said that it expected to achieve full operational capability with all 52 F-35s on order by 2025. 

The last four of 40 F-35As ordered by South Korea were delivered on Jan. 25, 2027. The fielding of all 40 fighters was originally scheduled to be completed in late 2021, but was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Breaking Defense reported on Jan. 31, 2022, that the F-35 program office had completed the initial deployment of new computing hardware for the fighter's logistics system. The milestone was the first step in the transition from the original ALIS to the modern Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN). The office said that all first-generation, unclassified ALIS servers have been replaced with the ODIN Base Kit (OBK), which is 75 percent smaller and lighter than its predecessor. The OBK runs ALIS software for the moment, with plans to develop new cloud-based ODIN software in the future that would offer maintainers with intuitive applications to simplify F-35 support. The new software offers a significant performance upgrade at lower cost and in a readily supportable package, Air Force officials said. The new hardware consists of two modules, each weighing less than 100 lb (45 kg), and provides processing times that are twice as fast as ALIS. The hardware is both more secure and easier to maintain, according to program officials. Twelve installations across the U.S. had fielded the new hardware, while Portsmouth Naval Base, U.K., and Amendola Air Base in Italy had received the new kits. Two of three kits at Edwards AFB support the Netherlands and U.K. Additional ODIN kits were scheduled for delivery in 2022, with all new U.S. and international squadrons set to be equipped with the hardware. 

New hardware was also in the works to replace the classified servers. The first classified ODIN kits were expected to be rolled out in late 2022. It remained unclear whether all ALIS hardware would be replaced with ODIN, which would depend on funding and scheduling constraints for squadrons, the program office said. 

On Feb. 3, 2022, Defense News reported that F-35As could begin flying near thunderstorms soon, once they complete upgrades to provide extra protection from lightning strikes. Plans called for the first upgraded Air Force F-35A to be cleared for unrestricted flight by July 2022. Once additional aircraft received the updates, they would be cleared for unrestricted flight, program officials said. The service prohibited F-35As from flying within 25 nm (46 km) of lightning or thunderstorms in the spring of 2020 after discovering that a vital component might not function correctly if hit by lightning. The problematic component, the onboard inert gas generation system (OBIGGS), injects nitrogen gas into fuel tanks to make them nonreactive should they be struck by lightning. A team performing routine repairs found damage to the tubes that pump nitrogen into the tanks. Lockheed claimed that the problem was occurring after delivery to the Air Force. 

Faulty inert gas tubes turned up in more than half of the 24 tubes that were inspected at the time, according to Bloomberg News at the time, prompting a program to enhance the OBIGGS. The root cause of the problem was still under investigation, but the Air Force and Lockheed had developed an engineering fix that addresses the issue, the program office said. All affected aircraft were expected to receive the fix by the end of 2025. An improved version of the OBIGGS had been installed in all new-build F-35s delivered since November 2021, said program officials. A software update to be implemented in 2022 would warn the pilot when degradation in the performance of the OBIGGS is detected. 

The newspaper noted that 15 F-35s from across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, had reported being hit by lightning as of Jan. 25, 2022, or one damaging strike every 30,000 flight hours. Each incident caused between US$25,000 to US$570,000 in repairs. Officials noted that Air Force regulations require all aircraft to avoid flying into thunderstorms.

On Feb. 11, 2022, the Finnish Ministry of Defense announced that it had signed letters of offer and acceptance for F-35A aircraft and maintenance services for their procurement under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. The documents covered the acquisition of 64 F-35A Block 4 fighters from 2025 to 2030 as well as aircraft engines and maintenance equipment, systems, spare parts, replacement and training equipment, services for use and maintenance and training for pilots and technicians, the ministry said. Further letters of offer and acceptance would be signed in 2022 for the purchase of Sidewinder and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. The procurement of air-to-ground weapons would be made later, said the ministry.

Defense News reported on March 8, 2022, that testing delays would push back a decision on moving the F-35 program into full-rate production into late fiscal 2023 or early fiscal 2024. Program officials said that joint simulation environment testing, which must be completed before the initial operational test and evaluation phase could be closed, was expected to take place in early spring or summer of 2023. The results of the simulation tests are needed before the final report needed for a production decision could be completed. The Milestone C production decision was originally planned for 2019 but has been pushed back due to delays with the joint simulation environment. The joint simulation environment creates high-end threat scenarios to evaluate how the F-35 would respond in the most dangerous scenarios. The simulation will cover varying threat densities, different mixes of aircraft and a variety of ground threats in the simulations, including potential future threats, the officials said. At the time, the Defense Dept. was working through the validation, verification and accreditation of the simulation's components. About half of the 88 packages needed had been completed, said the officials. Once that was completed, system validation verification work would begin, which was expected to be completed by September. The weeks-long testing period, totaling 64 test events, would follow in 2023. The program officials said that although the F-35 had not yet completed the simulation testing, they were "very confident" of the fighter's ability to fight in the event of a conflict. 

CNN reported on March 15, 2022, that Germany had decided to buy 35 F-35 Lightning II fighters. The jets would replace the Luftwaffe's aging Tornado aircraft, which are the only planes in the German inventory certified to carry U.S. nuclear bombs as part of a NATO program. U.S. F-35As based in Europe are expected to be certified to employ nuclear bombs before 2023. 

Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$632 million contract on May 17, 2022, for engineering, maintenance, logistics and material support to continue to develop, sustain and produce software builds and perform developmental flight tests for the F-35 program, including all U.S. service, Foreign Military Sales and non-DoD participants. The award also covered unique sea trials on aircraft carriers for the British government. Work was scheduled to be completed in March 2024.

On June 21, 2022, the Australian Dept. of Defense reported that the air force had received its 49th and 50 F-35A fighters in May 2022. The service planned to field a fleet of 72 F-35s at the time.

Defense News reported on June 28, 2022, that the U.S. Navy was ordering fewer F-35Cs in fiscal 2023 than Lockheed was capable of producing. Navy leaders told lawmakers that the move was due to COVID-related problems, including supply chain shortages. In addition, Navy leaders believed that its fighter inventory was the healthiest it had been in two decades, meaning its self-declared fighter shortfall could be left to safely linger past 2030, officials told the newspaper. Under two major efforts, naval aviation had closed a nearly 50-jet shortfall faster than anticipated and had increased the readiness of its current aircraft. Naval Air Forces officials in February told Defense News that the inventory of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and F-35Cs could reach its required size by 2025 and that the service was developing more aggressive readiness goals in response to early success. The rapid reduction of the strike fighter shortfall was attributed to work by the Navy and industry to extend the service lives of Super Hornets despite pandemic-related slowdowns of the F-35C production line. 

The fiscal 2023 proposal called for nine F-35Cs and would extend the shortfall to 2031, with Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro expressing concern about the pace of F-35C deliveries. At the time, Lockheed was working with the service on a COVID-recovery plan that would increase delivery rates to the pre-pandemic level by 2025. Navy officials told the newspaper that the service was looking to free up funds for other priorities and that the high readiness of jets made it less risky to extend the shortfall and divert funding elsewhere. The Navy's unfunded priority list included an additional six F-35Cs, while the Marine Corps requested four, with another three on its unfunded list. If Congress decided to fund all those aircraft, production would still be less than the 30 F-35Cs Lockheed could build annually.

On July 1, 2022, Defense News reported that the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration had expressed support for the procurement of another 20 F-35A fighters by 2030 as part of the F-X program. The latter supports the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike strategy to counter North Korean missile and nuclear threats. Under the project, another 20 F-35As would be delivered to the air force by 2030. A final decision on the procurement was anticipated by July 13. The DAPA was expected to expedite the follow-up process by reducing the feasibility study period as much as possible, the newspaper said. The 20 additional F-35As would be in the Block 4 configuration; South Korea's original 40 jets, which were all delivered by December 2021, were in the Block 3 standard.

Czech defense officials announced on July 20, 2022, that Prague would enter talks with the U.S. for a potential purchase of up to 24 F-35 fighters, reported Breaking Defense. The F-35 was selected over the F-16V Block 70/72 and offers from Saab for either older Gripen C/Ds or the new Gripen E/F. Czech officials assessed that only fifth-generation aircraft would have the capabilities needed to meet future mission requirements. Czechia had to act quickly on its new fighter choice because its lease of 14 Gripen C/Ds expired in 2027. 

Also on July 20, 2022, Defense News reported that Norway had decided to buy Raytheon StormBreaker guided bombs for its F-35A fighters. Work had already begun to integrate the munition with Norwegian F-35s, program officials said. Raytheon officials told the newspaper that the company did not know how many bombs Norway planned to buy. Raytheon was contracted to produce about 1,100 StormBreakers annually for U.S. and international customers, with the capacity to increase that figure, the officials said. At the time, the StormBreaker was integrated with the F-15E and work to integrate it with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was expected to be completed later in 2022. Integration on the F-35A and B was scheduled to be completed in early 2023, with integration on the F-35C to be completed by the end of 2023. The F-35 can carry four StormBreakers in its internal bay with room for other munitions.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on July 28, 2022, that the U.S. State Dept. had approved a potential Foreign Military Sale of F-35 aircraft, munitions and related equipment to Germany. The proposed US$8.4 billion deal covered 35 F-35As; 37 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines (two spares); 105 AIM-120C8 AMRAAMs; four AIM-120C8 guidance sections; 75 AGM-158B/B2 JASSM-ER missiles; two AGM-158 inert JASSMs with test instrumentation kits (TIKs); two AGM-158 separation test vehicles; 344 GBU-53 SDB IIs; three GBU-53 SDB II guided test vehicles; eight GBU-53 SDB II captive carry reliability trainers; 162 BLU-109 2000-lb hardened penetrator bombs for GBU-31 JDAMs; 264 Mk 82 500-lb general-purpose bombs for GBU-54 Laser JDAMs; six Mk 82 inert filled GP Bombs; 30 BLU-109 inert 2000-lb hardened penetrator bombs; 180 KMU-557 JDAM tail kits for GBU-31s; 246 KMU-572 JDAM tail kits for GBU-54 LJDAMs; 75 AIM-9X Block II+ Sidewinder tactical missiles; 30 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder captive air-training missiles (CATMs); 15 tactical AIM-9X Block II+ Sidewinder guidance control units; and five AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder CATM guidance units. Also included was various equipment and technical and logistics support. The potential deal would enhance Germany's ability to meet current and future threats by replacing aging Tornado jets in support of NATO's nuclear-sharing mission, the agency said.

Flight Global reported on Aug. 11, 2022, that Lockheed Martin had received a US$524 million contract to deliver 18 F-35 fighters to Italy. The deal covered 14 F-35As and four F-35Bs from production Lots 15 and 16. At the time, Lockheed said it had delivered 12 F-35As to Italy under previous contracts. Italy had a requirement for 90 F-35s, including 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs. 

On Aug. 12, 2022, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$7.6 billion contract modification, increasing the value of the deal to include 129 Lot 15 F-35s. The contract covered 49 F-35As for the Air Force; three F-35Bs and 10 F-35Cs for the Marine Corps; 15 F-35Cs for the Navy; 32 F-35As and four F-35Bs for non-DoD program participants; 16 F-35As for Foreign Military Sales customers; and 69 shipsets of technical hardware. Work was scheduled to be completed in October 2024.

Also on that date, Lockheed received a US$53.4 million NAVAIR contract modification for continued engineering and other related activities in support of the design and development of an F-35 variant tailored for an unspecified Foreign Military Sales customer. Work was scheduled to be completed in July 2026. 

The Swiss Dept. of Defense announced on Sept. 19, 2022, that it had signed the US$6.2 billion Foreign Military Sales contract with the U.S. for the procurement of 36 F-35As. Deliveries were scheduled from 2027 to 2030. The deal included mission-specific equipment, weapons and ammunition, a logistics package, mission planning systems, training systems and initial training and integration with the Swiss command-and-control system. U.S. authorities had already signed the contract, the department said.

Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a US$152.3 million contract on Sept. 29, 2022, for the production of F-35 logistics systems, including the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) and Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) and mission planning environment hardware. Work was scheduled to be completed in Dceember 2024.

Pratt & Whitney was awarded a US$115 million contract on Nov. 29, 2022, for the F135 engine core upgrade for F-35 fighters, reported Avionics International. Work was scheduled to be completed by May 2023. The upgrade would provide the fastest, lowest risk path to F-35 Block 4 capability, the company said. Technology Refresh 3, built on a L3Harris integrated core processor, would have 88 unique features and integrate 16 new weapons with the jet. Program officials said that the F-35 would need a new or significantly upgraded engine with increased electrical power and cooling to accommodate the 53 new capabilities planned for the Block 4 configuration. Pratt & Whitney said its Enhanced Engine Package (EEP) for the F135 powerplant had sufficient design margin to support Block 4.

Raytheon said it could equip 24 squadrons of F-35 fighters with the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine core upgrade by 2030, including seven in 2029 and 17 in 2030, compared to two squadrons that could be equipped with the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) powerplant in 2030, reported Avionics International on Dec. 13, 2022. The engine core upgrade and Raytheon's proposed emergency power and cooling system (EPACS), which was scheduled to reach Technology Readiness Level 6 in 2023, would provide a 7 percent increase in performance range and thrust for the F-35, more than twice the cooling of the F135 engine and more than US$40 billion in lifecycle cost savings, according to Pratt & Whitney. Since it was only a core upgrade, 70 percent of the materials would likely remain common, said company officials. The AETP would need significant development time as well as time to establish a new supply chain. The AETP would also be significnatly heavier than the F135. The engine core upgrade (ECU) program was previously known as the engine enhancement program (EEP). The program office had recently changed it, said the magazine.

Lockheed Martin announced on Dec. 14, 2022, that the German Defense Ministry had decided to acquire 35 F-35A jets. The agreement included a comprehensive package of engines, mission equipment, spare and replacement parts, technical and logistics support, training and weapons. Germany would be the ninth Foreign Military Sales customer for the aircraft, the company said. At the time, more than 875 F-35s were in service, according to Lockheed.

On Dec. 30, 2022, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Lockheed a US$7.8 billion contract modification adding scope to procure 127 F-35 Lot 16 aircraft, including 89 F-35As, 23 F-35Bs and 15 F-35Cs. It also definitized a modification in support of F-35 Lot 15 procurements in support of the F-35 program for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-U.S. Dept. of Defense participants and Foreign Military Sales customers, said a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed in August 2026.


Defense News reported on Feb. 29, 2024, that Singapore’s MoD planned to order eight F-35A jets, bringing the country’s Joint Strike Fighter fleet to 20.

Please log in to continue reading.

Not yet a subscriber? Take a free trial.

Military Periscope gives you easy-to-use, integrated, open-source intelligence on…

  • More than 7,500 weapons systems and platforms
  • Nearly every country's armed forces
  • Militant organizations
laptop image

Try Military Periscope free for seven days

Military Periscope Logo

Your online source for military news, weapons, and nation's armed forces worldwide

Military Periscope FEDLINK information

Service ID: UC

Contract Number: LCFDL24D0002

Military Periscope is a product of GovExec.

600 New Hampshire Ave., Suite 510,

Washington DC, 20037, USA.

©Military Periscope 2024

All rights reserved. Redistribution of the content is prohibited without prior consent of Military Periscope.