Lightning and Coronavirus: Counting the Cost

The F-35 Lightning II program is gathering pace on a global scale, but will the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic force lower operating costs for nations in financial peril?

With more than 500 aircraft delivered and 1,000 pilots trained, the F-35 Lightning II program is increasing in stature across the world. However, there are initial signs that while the fighter is growing in stature and capability, budgets and strategic direction may adversely affect the program in ways not previously expected.

The first organization to declare the Lockheed Martin fighter as having achieved initial operating capability (IOC) is already looking at potential cuts to its overall requirement for the fifth-generation fighters. The US Marine Corps said its first squadron of short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35Bs was ready for operations (if the call came) in summer 2015.

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