Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin was awarded a $347.7 million contract modification to support on-time production of 43 F-35 fighter planes for non-U.S. military customers, the Defense Department said.
The contract covers long lead materials, parts, components and support necessary to maintain on-time production and delivery of 43 lot 15 F-35 aircraft for non-Department of Defense buyers and Foreign Military Sales customers, the Pentagon said in a press release on Friday.
The F-35 is regarded as the world's most advanced stealth fighter plane, in use or ordered by 12 countries, but supply chain issues, as well as post-production defects and upgrades, have limited its use and value.
A Pentagon review released in August 2019 noted that the cost of the U.S. program for the plane increased by $25 billion in 2018 and was the "main driver" of a four percent increase in overall military spending.
Additionally, the United States removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program in July after it took delivery of a Russian missile defense system. Eight Turkish companies manufactured parts for the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays of the aircraft, according to Lockheed Martin. In all, 14 nations participate in the F-35 program.
In January, the Defense Department's Operational Test and Evaluation agency listed 873 unresolved deficiencies in the F-35.
In a report to the U.S. Congress, it noted that 13 of those deficiencies were regarded as Category 1, which could "cause death or severe injury, may cause loss or major damage to a weapon system, critically restricts the combat readiness capabilities of the using organization, or results in a production line stoppage."
The U.S. military has been working to achieve a mission capable rating of 80 percent, a target indicating that 80 percent of all U.S. F-35s are immediately ready for action. Operational units have consistently been below 75 percent due to maintenance issues.