Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $22.7 billion contract for the next round of F-35 Lightning II stealth aircraft production for the United States and partner nations.
The order, announced Wednesday by the Department of Defense, provides for the production and delivery of 106 Lot 12 F-35 aircraft for the U.S. military, including 64 F-35As for the Air Force, 26 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and 16 F-35Cs for the Navy.
Additionally, 89 F-35s for non-U.S. participants in the program -- 71 F-35As and 18 F-35Bs -- and 60 F-35As for foreign military sales customers are also included in Lots 12,13, and 14 production cycles.
Work is expected to be completed by March 2023, with $6 billion obligated at the time of the award from the three U.S. military branches' fiscal 2018 and 2019 aircraft procurement, non-Department of Defense participants and foreign military sales funds.
The F-35 joint program office has recommended international orders be combined in order to permit Lockheed Martin and its suppliers and subcontractors more time for production investment in order to lower costs. Lots 12 and 13 will begin delivery in 2020, with Lot 14 production expected to ramp up in 2021.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is a 5th generation multi-role stealth platform expected to replace most of the U.S. military's fighter fleets and to operate in support of other aircraft.
Over 320 aircraft have been delivered to the U.S. and partner nations, with the planned buys expected to boost that number by hundreds over the next several years..
Long-term production plans call for several thousand planes to be built for the U.S. military and approved foreign buyers.
Air Force F-35A and Marine Corps F-35B models have already reached initial operational capability, with several U.S. squadrons deployed on the USS Wasp and USS Essex amphibious assault carriers, Japan and the Middle East. The F-35 Joint Program Office has said the deployed F-35's are ready for combat.
The Navy F-35C designed for large Nimitz-class and Ford-class fleet carriers is expected to become fully operational sometime next year, according to JPO.