First F-35B Lightning Landing on Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier HMS Prince of Wales (R09)
First F-35B Lightning Landing on Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier HMS Prince of Wales (R09)

Lockheed Martin Awarded F-35 Contract Modification for United Kingdom and Italy

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is awarded a not-to-exceed $472,469,642 undefinitized contract modification to previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract. This modification adds scope to further develop and integrate three unique weapons capabilities through system functional review to development test complete on the F-35A and F-35B aircraft for the governments of the United Kingdom and Italy. Work is expected to be completed in March 2026. Non-Department of Defense participant funds in the amount of $116,462,707 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

In December 2006 the United Kingdom announced that it would acquire 138 F-35s for the Royal Air Force to own, to be flown by pilots from the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The airplane is one of the two main fast jet aircraft operated by the Royal Air Force, the other being the Eurofighter Typhoon. Further acquisition of the F-35 by the Royal Air Force has been criticised due to its possible “outdated” capabilities and lack of interoperability of the Royal Navy F-35Bs. A UK Defence Command paper released on 22 March 2021 removed the commitment to procuring 138 F-35s, stating instead that it will increase the fleet size beyond the 48 F-35Bs already ordered. On 23 March, the First Sea Lord estimated that the final fleet will total between 60 and 80 aircraft.

Italian Air Force F-35 F-35 Lightning IIs Train at Aviano Air Base
Italian Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs Train at Aviano Air Base

Italy is the second largest JSF contributing partner after the UK. The Italian government outlined a requirement for 131 F-35s for the Air Force and Navy, consisting of 69 F-35As and 62 F-35Bs. Under this plan the Italian Navy would have received 22 F-35Bs while the Air Force would get 69 F-35A and 40 F-35B STOVL version aircraft. The Navy plans to use the F-35Bs on the new Cavour STOVL carrier. Italian company Alenia Aermacchi will be the second source supplier of the wing box. Other participation in the program includes work on the electro-optical targeting system, on the electronic-warfare suite, ejection seat, radio, 25 mm gun and DAS systems, performed by Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s companies. Avio participated in both the Pratt & Whitney F135 and General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 powerplant programs.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions. It is also able to provide electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Lockheed Martin is the prime F-35 contractor, with principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. The aircraft has three main variants: the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A, the short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) F-35B, and the carrier-based (CV/CATOBAR) F-35C. The U.S. plans to buy 2,456 F-35s through 2044, which will represent the bulk of the crewed tactical airpower of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades. The aircraft is projected to operate until 2070.

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