Everybody Wants the F-35 Stealth Fighter

In another piece of evidence that the U.S. military is making the F-35 Lightning II one of the most valuable weapons systems in the world, Lockheed Martin has been granted a new contract for parts acquisition for the stealth fighter. Announced on Oct. 4, the $115.4 million bid will ensure the F-35 will not run out of spare parts. This contract will be in force until September of next year. 

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The Ideas Is To Not Run Out of Components

The contract is for diminishing manufacturing sources parts. These are critical parts that become scarce when a manufacturer or supplier stops making components in the middle of a program’s life cycle. The F-35 is considered a priority program, so it is imperative to protect the airplane from loss of parts, items, raw materials, or software

The parts sourcing also helps international customers of the F-35, an airplane that is becoming increasingly popular overseas, especially in Europe. U.S. allies both inside and outside NATO are looking to beef up their militaries after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One such country is Switzerland. The Swiss recently signed an agreement to buy 36 F-35As in a deal worth $6.25 billion and already approved by the Swiss Parliament. The F-35As will be delivered between 2027 and 2030, eventually replacing Swiss F/A-18 Hornets and F-5 Tigers.

Made in Texas and Italy 

Lockheed’s factory in Fort Worth, Texas, will build the initial eight stealth fighters. Then “at least 24 subsequent aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Leonardo at the Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, northern Italy,” Defense News reported.

The contract also provides Switzerland with F-35 weapons, ammunition, training, parts, and maintenance support. The Swiss chose the F-35A over the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

This is a curious buy for the Swiss, who are not members of NATO and usually maintain strategic neutrality. Switzerland did sign a Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO in 1996, so there is some cooperation for Switzerland to build on, but it is clearly the growing threat from Russia that is changing the Swiss stance.

Finnish Plans for the F-35

Finland inked a contract in late 2021 under which the country will buy 64 Lightning IIs. The Finnish air force announced this spring that the first F-35s will be deployed in the north of the country, near the Arctic Circle, in 2026. This basing will check Russian ambitions in the Arctic. Finland is pursuing NATO membership, and 28 out of 30 allies have already approved its entry.  

These contractual developments show how important the F-35 is to security around the world. The diminishing manufacturing sources parts program will ensure the platform does not run out of critical parts and will help the aircraft maintain the level of foreign military sales it has enjoyed in recent years. Russia is probably frustrated that even neutral countries such as Switzerland will have stealth fighter capabilities in the future. Moscow also failed to foresee that Finland would seek NATO membership and would eventually have so many F-35s. Indeed, the F-35 is becoming a strategic and diplomatic asset.

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

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