The order backlog of F-16 Block 70 fighter jet stands at 148 aircraft, close to the F-35’s order book position of 156 which is nearing the maximum production capacity of their manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.
The company on Friday announced the successful flight of the first Slovakian F-16 Block 70, the first for a European country.
This F-16 Block 70 jet is the first of 14 to be delivered to Slovakia. “Six countries have selected Block 70/72 aircraft. In addition to the current official backlog of 126 jets, Jordan last year signed an LOA for 12 jets and Bulgaria signed an LOA for an additional eight jets. Once these are finalized, the backlog will increase to 146,” Lockheed Martin said in a release.
Meanwhile, the F-35's order book remains strong. Israel ordered 25 additional F-35 aircraft in July 2023, adding to its existing fleet of 50. The U.S. State Department approved the sale of 24 F-35s to the Czech Republic, which will replace their leased Saab JAS-39C Gripen fighters.
Several European countries, including Finland, Switzerland, Germany, and the Czech Republic, have plans to order a total of 159 F-35s, surpassing Lockheed Martin's annual production capacity of 156 by 2025. Poland had previously ordered 32 F-35 fighters in 2020, and Greece has expressed interest in purchasing 20-24 F-35s, with more countries expected to follow suit.
European countries like Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Norway, and the U.K. are already operating F-35s, and non-European nations such as Japan, South Korea, and Singapore are expanding their F-35 fleets. Canada is also moving forward with plans to acquire 88 F-35s.
The U.S. military has committed to purchasing 83 F-35s in fiscal year 2024 and continuing to acquire 48 annually until 2028, with a total goal of 1,763 F-35s.
Production challenges include resource constraints, workforce shortages, and supply chain issues, with the center body of the aircraft being a limiting factor. Turkey's participation in the F-35 program was terminated in 2019 due to its purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems.
Lockheed Martin has partnered with Rheinmetall of Germany to manufacture F-35 center fuselages, supporting Germany's acquisition of 35 F-35s. Some new-build F-35s are equipped with the TR-3 upgrade, featuring enhanced weapons and electronic warfare capabilities.
Despite these challenges, the F-35 continues to face growing global demand, posing challenges in meeting production requirements.