The Pentagon on Friday awarded a $7.8 billion F-35 contract to weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) as it continues to work on the most expensive weapon system in history. The order for 127 Lot 16 fighters covers the U.S. Air Force, its allies, and other government and non-government customers.
The F-35 is a fifth-generation, all-weather stealth multi-role fighter that can perform ground attacks, aerial surveillance, and air defense missions. According to the Pentagon, it also has an advanced sensor suite and advanced data fusion capabilities and can deliver long-range precision weapons.
It’s a “net-centric” warfighter that will help the Pentagon win future battles against peer adversaries. In addition, the JSF is a critical part of the U.S.’s 21st Century Security network-centric architecture, a move toward a secure, interoperable system that will give fighter jets and other high-tech platforms the ability to share information across land, sea, air, and cyber domains.
While the F-35 has proven to be a game changer, it’s about to undergo a broadly classified upgrade that promises to make the aircraft more capable. A combination of new and upgraded weapon systems, powerful radar, expanded electronic warfare capabilities, and improved propulsion is expected to improve the F-35’s survivability and performance on the battlefield.
According to the Pentagon, these upgrades are expected to allow the JSF to identify, track, engage, and survive against increasingly complex air, ground, and cyber threats. In addition, the upgrades will enable more effective sensor suites, new and improved long-range weapons, more robust data fusion capabilities, and better interoperability between the F-35 and other airborne, surface, space, and ground-based platforms.
This will give the F-35 a combat edge, allowing it to identify and track enemy aircraft, engage them in the fight, and deliver lethal air-to-air and ground strike capabilities that can lead to victory.
The F-35’s advanced avionics, sensors, and communications suites are integrated with the air, land, and sea domains to provide commanders with superior situational awareness, the power to communicate across the globe, and the capability to deliver highly accurate precision long-range weapons that can reach the target even in the most challenging of circumstances. Moreover, according to the Pentagon, its network-centric architecture will connect the aircraft to other platforms to improve airborne, maritime, space, and ground combat, enabling global customers to stay ahead of their enemies far into the future.
As it moves forward with the program, Lockheed is working on a “Technical Refresh-3” that will add to the aircraft’s capabilities, including a new processor with greater computing power and a panoramic cockpit display. The TR-3 was supposed to be ready for the F-35 Lot 15 production aircraft in the early stages of development. Still, it has been delayed by technical problems, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.
The F-35 has a solid international presence, with 17 nations waiting to acquire the aircraft. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland are among them.