F-35 - International Partners
Initially [in the 2001-2002 timeframe] Lockheed was always using a number of 6,000 JSF aircraft, and a 2003 news release stated that “As many as 6,000 F-35s are to be built for the United States and other countries, at a total cost of more than $200 billion over the next 25 years, making this the biggest military aviation project currently under way. The United States may purchase as many as 2,850 of the planes”. During the year 2006 the estimate is lowered : “As many as 5,000 aircraft with at least three design variants include unprecedented design/build cycle reductions, lowest cost of sustainment for 30-year life of fleet.” Subsquently, in the year 2007 the presentations state that “It is projected that more than 4,000 Lightning IIs will be ordered by the United States and international forces.” And by 2009 it is stated that : “Lockheed Martin expects to manufacture more than 3,000 F-35 aircraft..."
Many of the 25 countries who bought more than 4,400 F-16 aircraft could be future customers for the F-35. But by 2009 only 3,000 F-16s were in service, with some 1,400 having already been retired.
As of 2013 one forecast for the total production of F-35 aircraft projected a range from 3217 to 4950 aircraft. The lowest mentioned number corresponds to the planning numbers that the F-35 partner countries and the number of aircraft for which non-partner countries for which obligations have been entered into. However, it is now clear that some partner countries intend to by fewer aircraft than the JPO provided planning numbers. On the other hand, the export potential during the production phase, which for the time being provided until 2034, outside of the partner countries. The actual development of price and quantity in the next few years is uncertain.
As recently as 2008 Lockheed officials said the cost for the three versions of the F-35 would be between $45 million and $63 million each. Program unit cost [total program cost, including development] rose from $76.7 million in 2001 to $136.8 million in 2012. Flyaway costs, excluding development costs, rose from $62.1 million in 2001 to $110.4 million in 2012.
JSF evolved to an international co-development program. The United Kingdom, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Australia and Turkey have formally joined the U.S. and contributed money toward the program. These partners are either NATO countries and/or close US allies, and peacekeeping and war fighting more recently have been done by coalitions. The reason to have all of these countries in co-development with the US is that there is currently a big difference in the type of equipment that they fly. Although some countries fly equipment similar to the US’s, others fly equipment that is less capable. With JSF, they can all fly the same airplane; as a coalition, they can all be the same. With this in mind, the U.S. invited these eight countries to participate in developing the airplanes. That is to say, they are not just participants to buy the airplanes. They will participate in the design, build, and test of the airplanes. This is a marked difference from past programs.
And of course, there is expectation in industry of the economic benefits associated with being a part of a big program. With such economic opportunities at hand for the various aerospace companies, it was in most cases the ministry of trade — not the ministry of defense — that cast the deciding votes to join the team.
The JSF Security Cooperation Participation (SCP) concept developed requiring ~$50M investment per country. The goal is to provide an opportunity for friends/allies to participate in JSF with goal and to be “well informed” customers in the process. The SCP consists of JSF vision/framework formalized in a National Armaments Director NAD-to-NAD Letter of Intent (LOI). It also consists of JSF “business details” formalized in a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA). SCP dialogue was conducted goverment-to-government; Singapore and Israel are participating under the SCP designation.
Eight countries agreed to invest a total of $4.375 billion over 10 years in the $25 billion Joint Strike Fighter program. Britain pledged $2 billion, and is the only "Level I" partner in the program. Italy has pledged $1 billion as a Level II partner, and the Netherlands has also pledged to invest $800 million, also becoming a "Level II" partner. The "Level III" partners include Canada [which pledged $150 million], Denmark [$125 million], Norway [pledged to invest $125 million], and Turkey [pledging $175 million]. Australia also expressed interest in the program.
Hélène Masson noted in 2004 that "In a tight budgetary context, the annual financial burden involved in their position in the JSF programme has caused the United Kingdom and Italy to put pressure on their German and Spanish partners to reorganise the multinational Eurofighter combat aircraft programme and to revise the capability improvements of Eurofighter Tranche 2 and Tranche 3."
Tony Capaccio writing for Bloomberg reported that Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of Pentagon’s F-35 program office, told a House Armed Services Committee panel 21 October 2015 that the F-35 program was “growing and accelerating and making progress on many fronts, including flight test, production, maintenance, fielding” He said the F-35 program was “fundamentally on track”.
Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded 02 November 2015 an undefinitized contractual action not-to-exceed $5,370,955,495 to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot IX F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter advance acquisition contract (N00019-14-C-0002). This modification provided for the procurement of 41 F-35A aircraft, including 26 F-35As for the Air Force; six F-35As for Norway; seven F-35As for Israel; two F-35As for Japan; 12 F-35Bs, including six for the Marine Corps and six for the British Royal Navy; and two F-35Cs for the Navy.
Work would be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (30 percent); El Segundo, California (25 percent); Warton, United Kingdom (20 percent); Orlando, Florida (10 percent); Nashua, New Hampshire (5 percent); Nagoya, Japan (5 percent); and Baltimore, Maryland (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2017. Fiscal 2016 aircraft procurement (Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy); and non-U.S. Department of Defense participants and foreign military sales funds in the amount of $625,099,999, were obligated on this award, none of which would expire at the end of the current fiscal year.
The United States is considering expanding its sales of the F-35 fighter jet to five additional countries, including Greece, Romania and Poland, Pentagon’s F-35 Program Executive Officer Mathias Winter said in written testimony submitted to Congress on 04 April 2019. "Future potential [foreign military sale] customers include Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain, and Poland with the [joint program office] responding to all official inquiries," Winter said. "The coming year promises to be another of substantial growth and progress across the global F-35 enterprise." Winter said that Switzerland and Finland have considered obtaining the F-35 jet, and the US government is expected to respond to those proposals in August and November, respectively.
Other Potential Customers
The 2013 South Korean FX-3 competition provides a fairly robust apples-to-apples price comparison for 60 fully equiped commercial sale aircraft. The F-15 Silent Eagle aircraft unit price was $40 million, and the F-35 Lightning II aircraft unit price was $180 million. Countries that have power projection requirements and face a stealth-equiped adversary will buy the F-35, and if not, probably not.
Lockheed initially used a number of 6,000 JSF aircraft, about evently divided between the United States and other countries. By 2015 a total of 598 aircraft were anticipated for the Partners, and from Other Customers [120 in Europe, 19 from Israel, 172 from Asian customers]. Rather than about 3,000 world wide, the total looked more like about 825.
Justin Trudeau, who led his Liberal Party to a commanding victory in 19 October 2015 parliamentary elections, campaigned on a platform that stated "We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber. We will immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft. The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability. We will reduce the procurement budget for replacing the CF-18s, and will instead purchase one of the many, lower-priced options that better match Canada’s defence needs."
The Obama Administration evidently declined to sell the Gulf certain advanced weapons systems such as the F-35 joint strike fighter, improved bunker buster bombs, or advanced cruise missiles. In 2001 it was projected that as many as six Arab countries might constitute a market for as many as 362 F-35s. Fifteen years later, none of this has materialized, and the US commitment to Israel's qualitative edge suggested that Arab requests for F-35s would not be met with favor. These countries demonstrated a ravenous appetite for new aircraft, but the modesty of the Iranian air threat probably rendered the F-35 too much of a good thing.
The proposition that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states would not be allowed to purchase the F-35, at least until long after Israel had incorporated the fighter into the IAS, was a widely held, if rarely articulated, belief for in the defense community.
Arabianbusiness reported in 2008 that "Israeli officials met with Pentagon staff in June to object to a proposed US sale of advanced weaponry to Saudi, however its concerns have since increased following reports that the kingdom was also to ask for F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets currently under development by Lockheed Martin, the newspaper said."
“I don’t expect Saudi Arabia to ask for F-35s because it already knows the Obama administration will not provide them in order to keep Israel’s military technological edge over Arab countries in the region,” said David Ottaway, a senior scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington, May 13, 2015.
To convince Israel and its supporters in Congress that the White House truly “has its back” for threats posed by Iran, US officials repeatedly stressed the fact that Israel is the exclusive regional recipient of the F-35. At a celebration of Israel’s 67th Independence Day, on 24 April 2015, Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd at the Israeli Embassy in Washington: “Next year, we’ll deliver to Israel the F-35, our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft. No other.”
Obama wrote in a letter August 2015 to Rep. Jerold Nadler, a New York democrat representing the largest Jewish district in the country “Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to which the United States has sold this fifth-generation aircraft.” In an 02 September 2015 letter to lawmakers, US Secretary of State John Kerry cited F-35s to Israel as an example of the Administration’s commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). “Israel’s first F-35 aircraft will be delivered in 2016, making it the only country in the region with a US fifth-generation fighter aircraft,” Kerry wrote.
In October 2015 Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and US Secretary of State Ash Carter opened talks on the defense package Washington will offer Israel over the next decade in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. Ya’alon said “We will discuss how to further increase the IDF’s capacity and capabilities to maintain our qualitative edge given increased and growing regional threats on the security of our country,” he continued. In remarks at the Pentagon 28 October 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted the Joint Strike Fighter is the visible manifestation of U.S. support for Israel. The Israeli air force will start receiving the aircraft next year and will be the only force in the region to be armed with a fifth-generation fighter.
Asked if he thought the F-35 should be sold to Gulf nations sometime in the next decade, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, the number two civilian at the Pentagon, indicated such a move was unlikely. “Right now, we do not have any expectation for selling the F-35 in the near term, beyond the countries that have already bought into the program,” he said March 15 in response to an April 2016 query from Defense News.
According to the Hebrew-language daily Maariv in May 2016, Washington had confirmed to Tel Aviv that this type of aircraft “will be exclusively allocated for Israel in the Middle East.” The newspaper further said Israeli authorities are wary of the fact the sale of F-35 military aircraft to Arab countries would chip away at the “technological superiority of Israel in the region.” There are reports that Washington is mulling the sale of fifth-generation F-35 aircraft to Qatar and Kuwait. US military officials have already announced that they will maintain a quality gap in favor of Israel in such a case.
However, after the signing of the Abraham Accord of 2020 which normalized the relations between the UAE and Israel, the Trump administration decided to sell 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft to the Gulf state. The F-35s were to be delivered to the latter by 2027.
In 2001 it was projected that as many as six Asian countries might constitute a market for as many as 528 F-35s. Fifteen years later, Japan and South Korea have signed up. Singapore seemed like a plausible customer, while Taiwan is a wildcard. Thailand has ordered the Gripen, and seems satisfied with the result. The squadron of AV-8B V/STOL aircraft was phased out in 2006, and there seems to be no appetite for a replacement. India is jointly developing a fifth generation fighter with Russia, and is not in the market for an American product. The Asian market of Japan, South Korea, and Singapore would amount to 230 aircraft, rather than 528.
In 2001 it was projected that as many as nine European countries in addition to the initial partner might constitute a market for more than 496 F-35s. Czech Republic modernization was focused on the JAS-39. Germany is focused on the Eurofighter, a home built product. Greece, one of the biggest defence spenders in Europe due to the traditional rivalry with Turkey, has in recent years realized that its ambitious arms programs were not affordable under current circumstances. On 03 February 2003 the Hungarian government signed a combined leasing/sales contract for 14 JAS-39C/D Gripen. By 2015, Belgium [48 aircraft], Portugal [48 aircraft], and Spain [24 aircraft] remained plausible customers, for a total of 120 aircraft.
Greg Waldron, writing for Flight Global on 16 February 2016, reported that Lockheed Martin estimated there could be a market for 100 or more F-35s in Asia-Pacific, beyond the more than 150 aircraft so far ordered by the region's confirmed customers. Australia had signed up for 72 aircraft, Japan 42, and South Korea 40.
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