U.S. Navy F-35C variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is shown here during flight testing. The Navy does not expect the model to be fully operational until next year. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Shannon Renfroe/Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy is awarding Lockheed Martin $18.5 million for program-related and logistical work on the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
The modification of a previously awarded contract calls for analysis of the F-35's ability to accomplish its mission regarding participant requirements, such as the U.S. military and other nations either directly involved in the program or as outside buyers.
The analysis will include studying cost and weight reductions and simulations of the aircraft's performance. The contract is expected to run through December 2019 with funds to be obligated upon each contract order.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is a 5th generation multi-role stealth fighter aircraft slated to replace most of the U.S. fighter fleet and supplement other nations participating in the program.
Over 320 aircraft have been delivered to the U.S. and partner nations, and planned buys are expected to boost that number by hundreds over the next several years.
Long-term production plans call for nearly 3,000 planes to be built for the U.S. military and approved foreign buyers.
F-35A Air Force and Marine Corps vertical takeoff and landing B models have already reached initial operational capability with several U.S. squadrons deployed with the USS Wasp and USS Essex amphibious assault carriers, in Japan and the Middle East.
Although lingering, unresolved software issues have left the planes without their full capabilities, the Department of Defense has said deployed planes 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 the F-35 Joint Program Office.