Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the Pentagon’s largest cooperative program. Eight partner countries are collectively contributing $4.9 billion to the system design and development phase (SDD). They have projected a total buy of 597 aircraft as follows: Australia, 100; Canada, 65; Denmark, 30; Italy, 131; The Netherlands, 85; Norway, 48; Turkey, 100; and the UK, 138. Those totals likely won’t survive defense budget pressures, especially in the UK.
Only Denmark has yet to confirm its choice of the F-35. It will decide next year, after holding a competition in which the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is the main challenger.
In Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and especially Canada, there has been political controversy over the choice of the F-35, especially because the final acquisition cost is still so uncertain.
In theory, the international partners will pay the same price for their aircraft as negotiated by the U.S. customers for each lot, whether it is in LRIP or in the subsequently planned multi-year procurement. In previously published schedules, the partners were due to buy 223 LRIP aircraft costing an expensive $24.1 billion, according to the GAO. However, Lockheed Martin admits that this plan is now defunct.
To date, the partners have ordered just five production aircraft: two for the UK and one for the Netherlands in LRIP Lot 3, and one more for each in LRIP 4.
Australia and Italy will be the next to commit, taking two and four aircraft, respectively, from LRIP 6 in Fiscal 2012.
Turkey plans to take seven aircraft in LRIP 7 (Fiscal 2013), with a further seven for the UK and five for Italy also in this Lot.
The first five aircraft for Norway are in LRIP 8 (Fiscal 2014).
Italy last year committed to a final assembly and checkout facility (FACO) at Cemeri airbase. That facility may also assemble F-35s for the Netherlands.
Israel could eventually take 75 F-35s, and negotiations continue with Singapore, the other second-level F-35 partner country.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin expects the U.S. government to respond to an RFP from Japan in September, and for that country to take a decision on the F-35 versus competing fighters as early as December.
South Korea could follow in 2012.
Spain has given LM a contract to explore how the F-35B might be integrated with its small aircraft carriers, as an AV-8B replacement.