F-35 Lightning: The Joint Strike Fighter Program, 2012 – 2013
March 26/13: Singapore. AOL Defense is reporting that Singapore will order 12 F-35Bs within 10 days, while others take a more measured tone. Agence France-Presse cite Singaporean sources as saying they’re in the final stages of evaluating the F-35, which tracks with statements by Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen. Even so, the plane’s very incomplete capabilities mean that part of Singapore’s evaluation is just paper and promises at this point. Singapore’s RSIS points out that the country has traditionally been cautious in its defense buys, restricting themselves to proven platforms.
Singapore’s fleet of about 34 upgraded F-5S/T fighters were bought in the 1970s, and they do need replacement. The RSAF’s alternative would be to order more F-15SG Strike Eagles as F-5 replacements, and wait several years before ordering F-35s. The Strike Eagles would cost less at present, and would offer a much wider array of weapons until about 2025 or later. F-35Bs would offer more risk, and would enter service much later than F-15SGs, in exchange for better stealth, and the ability to take off and land from damaged runways. Either way, a DSCA-approved export request would be required before any order can be placed. The most we can expect within 10 days is a State Department announcement. AOL Defence | AFP | Reuters | Eurasia Review.
March 26/13: UK. The Ministry of Defence announces that RAF Marham, which had hosted Tornados until the fighters were retired to save on support costs, will become Britain’s main base for F-35s. It will also act as a support center, performing depth maintenance. RAF | BBC.
March 25/13: Engine. Bloomberg reports that Rolls-Royce was an average of 160 days late with its F135-PW-600 LiftFan engine parts deliveries in 2012. Subcontractor errors were part of the problem:
“There have been issues such as corrosion on some of the gears and some undersized holes,” Jacqueline Noble, a spokeswoman for the defense agency, said in the [emailed] statement [to Bloomberg]. While London-based Rolls-Royce and its subcontractors have made progress, the need to fix fan parts that don’t meet specifications “is still a concern,” she said.”
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
The F-35 Lightning II Fighter Family
F-35 Family Variants: Door A, B, or C?
F-35s: Key Features
Pimp My Ride: Weapons & Accessories
The F-35 Family: Controversies and Competitions
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: The Program
F-35 JSF: Programs by Country
Home Base: The American Program
Australia (Tier 3)
Britain (Tier 1)
Canada (Tier 3)
Denmark (Tier 3)
Italy (Tier 2)
The Netherlands (Tier 2)
Norway (Tier 3)
Turkey (Tier 3)
Israel (Security Cooperation Partner)
Singapore (Security Cooperation Partner)
Exports: Beyond the Program Team
Future Sales Opportunities
F-35 Contracts & Decisions
Additional Readings & Sources
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