Nothing about the F-35 program is ever small or easy. A transition to operational status, even after an extended and over-budget developmental phase, finds most military aircraft programs returning to relative anonymity. For Lockheed Martin’s single-engine fighter, the public spotlight has shifted to a newly-launched $22 billion upgrade program, ballooning sustainment costs and a geopolitical conundrum embroiling Turkey—the F-35’s third-largest customer.
In a string of press conferences over a two-week period in mid-June, Lockheed and U.S. Defense Department officials laid out a path to fulfill an ambitious set of promises on Block 4 upgrades and a dramatic reduction in cost per flight hour. But the F-35 program’s rift with Turkey only deepened as officials in Ankara insist on accepting deliveries of an advanced Russian air defense system in July.
The long-delayed modernization of the F-35 is now in full swing, says Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager for the F-35 program. The Defense Department awarded Lockheed a $1.8 billion contract on June 7 to launch software development to support a newly expanding set of upgrades planned over the next decade under the Block 4 modernization program. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Aviation Week website.