The US Department of Defense has released funds ($US197m) to buy six conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A Lightning IIs for the US Air Force, with provisional approval to purchase six short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps following a senior leadership review and the inaugural flight of that variant.
The 12 aircraft will be built in the second phase of F-35 low-rate initial production (LRIP 2).
The $US2.2bn contract authorisation comes after the Defense Acquisition Board’s recommendation to release the funds and proceed with production.
“We welcome the board’s decision and their vote of confidence in the F-35 program,” said Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager.
“We’re seeing excellent progress on our production line, with 17 preproduction aircraft in assembly flow, the first two production-model F-35s already under way and unprecedented assembly quality across the board.”
Long-lead funds of $US197m for LRIP 3 were released on May 14 for at least 18 additional F-35s.
The LRIP I contract for the first two F-35A production aircraft was finalizsd and issued in July 2007.
The first F-35A test aircraft has completed 40 flights and has exceeded performance and reliability expectations. The inaugural flight of the first F-35B is on schedule for late spring/early summer.
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