Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has received an $18 million contract modification for maintenance and operation of the support center that tests the F-35 aircraft for three partner nations.
The deal will fund maintenance and operations at the Australia, Canada, United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
It extends a previous $559.5 million contract awarded in 2016 for hardware and software upgrades and engineering support for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter for both U.S. defense and foreign military sales.
The F-35 is a stealth fighter jet manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the 1990s, with variants used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as foreign governments that also include Italy, Norway, Denmark and formerly Turkey.
The fighter has been the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism over spiraling costs, production delays and safety issues. Those concerns were aired at a November congressional hearing at which the Department of Defense said it would not offer Lockheed a multiyear contract for production of the jets until it resolved some safety issues.
Amid the criticism , though, the Pentagon has continued to award large contracts for F-35 projects.
In 2018 Lockheed received a $7.47 million contract to move ACURL from Fort Worth, Texas, to Eglin.