An F-35A Lightning II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 28th Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron on, May 12 at an undisclosed location. Photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes/U.S. Air Force | License Photo
June 10 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin was awarded a $1.8 billion contract for design and development of the F-35 Lightning II Phase 2.3 Pre-Modernization for the U.S. military's F-35s, as well as and those of non-Defense Department participants.
Lockheed is expected to continue development of Block 4 upgrades to software on the F-35, the Pentagon announced Friday.
The company last November was awarded a similar $130.4 million contract for the second phase of development on the incremental software modernization program. The upgrade program was slated to start this year, following completion of Block 3F upgrade installations.
Lockheed has been working to develop the Block 4 upgrade at the same time it has continued to correct mostly minor bugs causing software and firmware deficiencies in Block 3F.
The Block 4 upgrade includes some 50 improvements, among them new weapons technology, increases to the aircraft's recognition and detection ranges, and expected greater targeting performance.
Work on the new contract will be performed at the company's plant in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed by August 2026.
The contract combines purchases for the Air Force of $732.5 million, the Navy of $371.5 million, the Marine Corps of $346 million and non-U.S. DoD participants of $358 million.
Fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as non-U.S. DoD participant funds, in the amount of $99 million have been obligated at the time of award, with none of it expiring at the end of the current fiscal year.
Joint foreign partners on the F-35 program are Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.
The F-35A is planned to replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F-35C is to replace the F/A-18C for the U.S. Navy, the F-35B will take over for F/A-18B and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The average F-35 unit cost in fiscal year 2019 for the Defense Department was $108.78 million, according to a Pentagon report in March.