Can Foreign Sales Of The F35 Breathe Life Back Into The Struggling Program?

  • Bindiya Thomas
  • 11:32 AM, April 29, 2013
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Can Foreign Sales Of The F35 Breathe Life Back Into The Struggling Program?
The expensive F35 stealth fighter is looking to U.S allies for a boost in sales after it failed to make headway at home.

Deep-pocketed U.S allies are emerging as the saviors of Lockheed Martin’s most costly military plane, the F35 fighter aircraft, which has struggled to make sales on the home ground.

With many critics of the F-35 Lightning II program unconvinced of its capabilities and the shadow of cancellation looming, the stealth fighter has found redemption in sales abroad.

Most recently, Israel agreed to buy 19 F35s worth $2.75 billion and signed an additional contract worth $2.5 billion to supply wings for the aircraft. The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is expected to begin deliveries in 2015.

Earlier this week, Norway announced that it would order six F35s (part of an initial contract) to replace its aging F16s. The government is now planning that its air force receive six aircraft annually from 2017 and to 2024, to acquire 52 aircraft in all. This is in addition to the four planes that will be delivered in 2015 and 2016. The contract is approximately worth $36.4 billion.

Lockheed Martin could nab another major contract this year if it beats Boeing’s F-15 in the South Korea jet competition. The F-35, F-15 and Eurofighter Typhoon are currently locked in competition to supply South Korea with 60 fighter planes.

Further success abroad is anticipated with Singapore set to announce next month that it plans to buy its first squadron --12 planes -- of some 75 of Lockheed Martin's F-35Bs.

On the Asian front, Japan announced in March that it had awarded Lockheed a $40.2 million fixed-price-incentive contract for the acquisition of four F35 fighter aircraft.

Another close U.S ally, Australia, is also considering buying the F35s despite various setbacks and delays. In March, the F35 Pentagon program director sought to convince Australian lawmakers and generals to stick to a plan to buy 100 of the jets.

Despite bolstering success, Lockheed Martin could face a blow if Canada decides to pick competitor Boeing since they agreed to re-open the contract search amid public pressure.  

Boeing representatives took the opportunity and dismissed the F-35 as a "shiny brochure of promises" that has yet to be perfected in reality. "We call it competing with a paper airplane," one Boeing test pilot was quoted as saying.