Lockheed Martin Targets Complete Production of Its 1,000th F-35 Fighter Jet By The End Of This Year

Lockheed Martin Targets Complete Production of Its 1,000th F-35 Fighter Jet By The End Of This Year

Even though it is often criticized for having experienced many incidents, the reality is that the stealth fighter jet F-35 Lightning II produced by Lockheed Martin is very popular in the market. Even the production achievements deserve to be called spectacular. 

Since the prototype first flew on December 15 2006 and is now operated by 17 countries, the F-35 series production line is rumored to reach 1,000 units by the end of this year.

The overflow of orders for the production of the F-35 is a tremendous blessing for the manufacturer, but on the other hand, the large number of orders also creates a tough challenge for the production line, because so far there have been many obstacles related to the development and production of this stealth fighter. Orders in large quantities by the United States armed forces and US allies, create its own difficulties to meet demand, let's say the production capacity for this year is only 156 units of aircraft.

The above problems are exacerbated by increasing supply chain hurdles, limited infrastructure in production centers, and delays in engine repair programs.

From the aspect of demand, the US military reported, in the 2024 fiscal year plan, indicated the acquisition of 83 F-35 units — consisting of 48 for the Air Force, 19 units for the Navy, and 16 units for the Marine Corps. If sharpened the US Air Force will buy 48 units of F-35 per year until 2028, and more than that, it is said to plan to buy a total of 980 units of F-35 to achieve the desired target of 1,763 fighters.

The US Air Force is basically reluctant to just buy 48 F-35s. Originally planned to buy 110 F-35s a year, that figure was later reduced to 80, then to 60, and in recent years to 48. This is unpleasant, because the US Air Force's strength has shrunk from 4,556 aircraft in 1990 to 2,176 combat aircraft today, and the trend will continue to decrease, because the US Air Force retired 801 combat aircraft and only purchased 345 combat aircraft until 2028.

Regarding the United States' allies and partners, Finland and Switzerland have decided to buy 100 F-35 units last year, while Canada ordered 88 F-35 units. Germany has also approved the acquisition of the F-35, and countries including Greece and the Czech Republic have entered into negotiations with Lockheed Martin after selecting the F-35 to replace the fighter in their current fleets.

Israel said on July 2, 2023, it would purchase an additional 25 F-35s, complementing the 50 currently in service. The Czech Republic also said two weeks ago that it would buy 24 F-35s, which would replace the Saab JAS-39C Gripen fighters that the Czechs had leased.

Over the past year, taking into account orders for F-35s from Finland, Switzerland, Germany, and now the Czech Republic, the total number is 159 F-35s, which is higher than the production quota allowed per year, which is 156 units. The figure does not include orders from Poland, which ordered 32 fighters in 2020, and Greece, which intends to buy 20-24 F-35s, but formal applications have yet to be finalized.

Lockheed must maintain its commitment to supply within the agreed schedule. In production runs, it currently involves orders from Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Norway and the UK. Asian customers cannot be forgotten either, such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, where the F-35 will be arriving in the coming year.

A study commissioned by Lockheed Martin estimated that with an aggregate economic impact of US$72 billion annually, the F-35 program is a boon for aerospace suppliers. These suppliers perform a variety of activities, including production, maintenance, engineering, training, and supply chain management.

Strategically, the program strengthens America's security ties with countries that operate the F-35 and can include them in joint exercises. In fact, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the F-35 market has strengthened ties among NATO countries. However, the relevant question is the challenges Lockheed faces in meeting the demands of such a large number of orders.

Lockheed officials said they would rise to the challenge and increase production with the steps they had already started. The company plans to roll production of the 1,000th F-35 fighter jet later this year on the assembly line at Air Force Plant 4 (Fort Worth, Texas). On April 12, 2023, Lockheed Martin just delivered its 900th F-35.

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