Lockheed to manufacture three F-35 striker jet models

Lockheed to manufacture three F-35 striker jet models

Lockheed to manufacture three F-35 striker jet models

Lockheed Martin will develop three version of the F-35 Joint Striker Fighter for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines. EPA Photo

Senior Pentagon officials are expected today to sign off on a comprehensive plan for testing and evaluating Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an important next step for the new stealth warplane, according to two sources familiar with the program.

The test evaluation master plan, already approved by U.S. Navy and Air Force officials, maps out a schedule for testing that must be completed before the military can start using the new radar-evading fighter for military operations, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly, Reuters reported yesterday.

Senior defense officials who served on the Defense Acquisition Board are expected to approve the document at a meeting scheduled for today, they said. The meeting is not intended to address any other significant program milestones.

Lockheed is developing and building three variants of the F-35 for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as eight international partners who are helping to fund the plane’s development, plus Israel and Japan.

The international partners are Turkey, Italy, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

When the program began in 2001, the U.S. military planned to begin using the new fighter this year, but it has been delayed by several years to address technical issues and reduce the overlap between development and early production.

Turkey has neared ordering a second pair of the jointly-made, next-generation, stealth fighter F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II aircraft, as it did earlier this year following the production of the first two, a senior procurement official said over the weekend. The shipment date set for the first two is 2015.