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Pentagon Sets F-35 Order Ceiling At 780 Between 2026-2030 (2200+ F-35s in total by 2030)

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Feb 22, 2017
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United States

Pentagon Sets F-35 Order Ceiling At 780 Between 2026-2030


Lockheed Martin could build 780 F-35s over a five-year ordering period between fiscal 2026 and 2030, the Joint Program Office (JPO) says in a new acquisition document.

A sole-source notice published on Aug. 2 reveals that the program is keeping the door open for Lockheed to deliver F-35s at a maximum production rate of 156 per year between lots 20 to 24. Aircraft ordered in each lot are intended to be delivered within two to three years after the orders are signed.

A JPO spokesman clarified that the annual production rates and the five-year total represent a potential ceiling for orders, rather than a guaranteed amount.

“The contract will be structured to allow aircraft procurement to be up to 156 aircraft annually,” JPO spokesman Russell Goemaere said.

The program plans to reach a maximum rate of 156 F-35 deliveries in 2025 and remain at that level for the next several years, depending on demand from the U.S. and international buyers.

Lockheed delivered a record total of 142 F-35s for the program in 2021 but has struggled to keep up with orders since. The company delivered 141 of the stealth fighters in 2022, despite setting a goal of 148-153. A crash of an F-35B on a check flight in Fort Worth in mid-December grounded flight operations for several weeks.

This year, Lockheed hoped to deliver as many as 153 F-35s, but delayed software testing of the Technology Refresh-3 upgrade is likely to postpone deliveries of dozens of aircraft. Lockheed instead could deliver only 100-120 F-35s in 2023 as a result.

Although the delivery pace could take a sharp dive, Lockheed’s production system will continue building new F-35s at the same rate. The deliveries, however, will be deferred until the new software is certified.

As of Aug. 1, Lockheed has delivered more than 960 F-35s to nine countries through the first 14 yearly lots of production.

To reach the maximum delivery totals of 780 jets over Lots 20-24, the JPO and Lockheed will need to reverse a declining trend for orders over the next three years.

Another 398 F-35s are expected to be ordered in lots 15-17, including 145 in the first year, 127 in the second year and 126 in the third. A placeholder contract for 118 jets in Lot 18 also has been awarded to Lockheed, although quantities can change as the order is finalized.

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Germany's Rheinmetall starts building F-35 fuselage plant​

German arms producer Rheinmetall is to begin manufacturing parts for F-35 stealth aircraft from 2025 in a new plant. The factory is the first such investment by a German weapons manufacturer since Russia invaded Ukraine.


The German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall on Tuesday marked the construction launch of a new factory in the western town of Weeze that will produce fuselage sections for the F-35 stealth combat aircraft.

The premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst, took part in a ground-breaking ceremony at the construction site, saying that "a highly modern factory is to be built here that will guarantee good jobs for decades."

Rheinmetall is a partner of the US company Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35 together with Northrop Grumman, another US firm.


Major commission​

The factory, which is estimated to cost €200 million ($219 million) and will have an area of some 60,000 square meters (645,835 square feet), is to go into operation in 2025.

Its up to 450 workers will produce the fuselage parts for at least 400 of the aircraft, 35 of which are earmarked for use by Germany's armed forces at a cost of €8.3 billion. Those aircraft are being purchased as part of the €100 billion package agreed by the government last year to upgrade the country's military.

The other planes, whose delivery is scheduled to start in 2026, will likely be purchased by other NATO partners. The remaining components for the aircraft are to be supplied by other manufacturers, meaning that Rheinmetall will receive only a small part of the proceeds.

Some 1,500 other jobs could be created in connection with the factory.

What is the F-35?​

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is considered to be the most modern combat aircraft in the world. The German air force is purchasing them to replace its aging fleet of Panavia Tornado multirole jets.

The F-35 is capable of carrying nuclear weapons and forms part of NATO's nuclear sharing concept, which sees alliance member having access to US atomic bombs.

Germany's air force chief, Ingo Gerhartz, said last year that the purchase of F-35s was made necessary by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, now in its 18th month.

"There can be only one answer to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's aggression," said Gerhartz. "Unity in NATO and a credible deterrent. This in particular means there is no alternative but to choose the F-35."

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