Lockheed Martin expect that it will deliver fewer F-35 Lightning II fighters than planned to domestic and international customers through 2022, as an ongoing rebaselining of the programme looks set to continue for some time to come.
Speaking during a July 27 webcast detailing the company’s first-half performance for 2021, senior officials detailed that 2022 would see the delivery of more than the expected 139 aircraft this year but fall short of the target for the next calendar year.
Kenneth Possenriede, chief financial officer at Lockheed Martin, stated it was “highly likely” that deliveries of the F-35 in 2022 would fall short of the planned 169, but would “not be less” than the total handovers for 2021.
Possenriede confirmed that the rebaselining of the programme would continue for another “two or three years”, after which the programme would plateau at 170 F-35 deliveries per year.
Further, Possenriede said efforts to continue to drive down the operating cost of the aircraft towards the US$25,000 per-flight-hour were ongoing. Regarding platform acquisition costs, it was expected that the carrier-based C-variant and short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) B-variant “will stay where it is” or possible reduce as the programme matures.
However, the price of the A-variant could see a “modest” increase in price as additional capabilities are sought by operators.
The second quarter of 2021 also saw the F-35 selected by Switzerland to meet its next-generation fighter requirement, becoming the fifteenth country to join the F-35 programme of record, joining several European current or future operators including the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Belgium, Poland and Denmark.
An intensely fought programme saw the fifth-generation stealth fighter competing against the pan-European Eurofighter, France’s Dassault Rafale and Boeing’s F/Z-18 Super Hornet, which would replace Switzerland’s ageing fleet of F/A-18 Hornets. The F-35 is also a contender for Finland’s future fighter programme, as well as that of Canada.
By Richard Thomas