US Navy F-35C CF01 first in-flight refueling (Image © Lockheed Martin)

USA signs contract for 71 new F-35s, exports included

US Navy F-35C CF01 first in-flight refueling (Image © Lockheed Martin)
US Navy F-35C CF01 first in-flight refueling (Image © Lockheed Martin)

The US Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin finalised the contracts for the delivery of another 71 F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft, despite the fact that none of the previously 95 ordered machines is capable of combat yet. The new contracts include the first F-35s for the Royal Australia Air Force, the Aeronautica Militare Italiano (Italian Air Force) and the Royal Norwegian Air Force, plus the fourth F-35 for the United Kingdom.

The first contract is for 36 F-35s of the so-called Low-Rate Initial Production-6 (LRIP-6) batch, with deliveries commencing in mid-2014. Another 35 Joint Strike Fighters, as the Lightning II is also known, will begin in mid-2015 under the second LRIP-7 contract.

One of the premier concerns of the US DoD are the rising costs of the F-35 program, but according to international press agency Reuters LRIP-6 will be bought for 2.5 percent less costs compared to earlier F-35 purchases for a total amount of U$4.4 billion. LRIP-7 will cost $3.4 billion, or a deal with 6 percent cost reduction of the program that already has been over budget big time.

Of the 95 F-35s ordered as batches LRIP 1 to 5 and as test aircraft, 67 have been been rolled out of the Lockheed Martin production plat in Forth Worth, Texas, so far.

Source: US DoD/Lockheed Martin/RTR

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