Lockheed Martin is trying to sell its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighters to the the governments of Spain, Switzerland and Belgium. Finland is in talks too.
“We are talking to several other countries – Switzerland, Belgium, Spain,” explained Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program leader, at the Australian International Airshow underway at Avalon airport.
Noteworthy, adding new customers to the U.S and 10 allies nations already clients of the F-35 could significantly reduce the cost of the aircraft after the numerous setbacks suffered by the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
“There are quite a few other European nations that are looking at perhaps having the F-35 as an opportunity,” Babione pointed out. “We are starting to see other customers think about the F-35 being added to their fleet.”
Another source close to the negotiations, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that Finland is in talks too.
Babione explained that U.S. and the other countries (Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Israel) already signed up to the F-35 have to increase their Lightning II purchases beyond yearly commitments to help meet a reduced target cost of $80 million by 2020.
“It is actually a very reasonable target but it is going to take cooperation in changing the way we buy the aircraft,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the F-35 for its high cost: in fact the current price per jet remains at $94.6 million, even if it’s declined since the first aircraft delivered to the U.S. in 2011 because of production increase.
To further reduce costs Lockheed Martin is pressing purchasers to agree to a three-year block buy.
“The longer we do it the more we are able to aggregate,” Babione pointed out. “Maybe in the future you are talking about a multi-year and you could do a five year multi-year and increase the savings.”
Moreover Government of Canada is also expected to decide soon whether it would buy the F-35s or Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets instead.
However the Pentagon’s head of the F-35 program revealed this week at Avalon that the Lightning II reliability is being pulled down by the first aircraft delivered that do not perform as well as more recently delivered jets.
“Unfortunately today the aircraft reliability and maintainability of the airplane is what I would call flat,” Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan of the U.S. Department of Defense said.
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin