Lockheed eyes dozens of orders for F-35 jets soon

Lockheed eyes dozens of orders for F-35 jets soon

Lockheed eyes dozens of orders for F-35 jets soon

The second production model F-35A Lightning II aircraft flies above at Edwards Air Force Base, California. REUTERS photo

Lockheed Martin Corp , nearing completion of its 100th F-35 fighter jet, anticipates dozens of international orders or commitments for the new radar-evading warplane in coming months, according to U.S. government officials and industry executives.

The F-35 program got a boost on Tuesday when the South Korean government rejected a bid by Boeing Co to build 60 F-15 warplanes, saying it needed a more advanced “fifth-generation” fighter.

It could take up to a year before South Korea completes the next round of its fighter competition, but Lockheed has set its sights on additional orders from Norway, Britain and Turkey before year’s end. Experts said the phrasing ofSouth Korea’s statement indicated Boeing had a slim chance of landing a deal.

And Singapore may announce an initial order of one dozen F-35 jets or more at the Singapore air show in February.

Military officials from the United States and eight other countries that helped fund development of the F-35 will meet inIstanbul this week to review progress on the fighter jet that will replace the popular F-16 and a dozen other warplanes now in use around the world, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Moves by Russia and China to develop their own stealthy “fifth-generation” fighter jets have accelerated in recent years, underpinning demand for the F-35. The Pentagon’s chief arms buyer this month described the F-35 as the top U.S. conventional weapons program.

Military experts use the term “fifth-generation” to refer to airplanes that have stealthy coatings and other features that make them largely invisible to enemy radars.

Lockheed is building three variants of the F-35 for the U.S. military, and the eight partner countries: Britain, Canada, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey and Denmark. Israel and Japan have also placed orders.

In December or January, Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee is expected to approve an initial order of two jets out of the 100 F-35s it plans to buy over time to replace its aging fleet of F-4 Phantoms and early F-16s, according to a source close to the program.