Lockheed Martin “sprinting” to finalize German F-35 contract

Lockheed Martin is working at top speed to finalize a deal for F-35 Lightning II fighters for Germany, an executive at the defense manufacturer said at the Berlin ILA Airshow.  

“We are sprinting now to try and understand the German requirements,” JR McDonald, VP F-35 strategy and business development, told reporters during a briefing at the air show on June 22, 2022.  

Berlin decided in March 2022 on the F-35 to replace the German Air Force’s aging fleet of Panavia Tornado multirole jets.  

McDonald, a former USAF F-15 pilot, said Lockheed was looking to define just how many aircraft the German Armed Forces need, when they need them, what training they require and what weapons they want as part of the contract. He said Lockheed hoped to have its documentation ready by the fall, when it would then go back to the German government for approval.  

The Lockheed executive highlighted that Germany’s request was for the standard configuration block 4 of the aircraft and part of the reason for that was the need for speed, especially because the F-35 will replace the country’s aging fleet of Tornados.  

“It’s a very accelerated timeline from what we are used to seeing,” McDonald said.  

He said that despite the pressure on Germany to boost its defense spending and capabilities because of the war in Ukraine, there would be “no jumping of the queue” when it comes to deliveries.  

Lockheed intends to deliver 148-153 aircraft this year and is producing at a rate of 12-13 fighters a month, McDonald said. So far, around 810 F-35 fighters have been delivered in total. He noted that in the last year alone, four countries have selected 223 F35s.  

McDonald also predicted that over 550 F-35s will be operating in Europe by 2035, up from 128 today. He said he was conscious of the debate about European autonomy but emphasized that 25% of the aircraft’s parts came from Europe and any European customer could request to have the aircraft delivered from the final assembly and check-out line in Italy.

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