Lockheed Martin Corp. may see more than $800 million in payments withheld through next June until it wins approval for the software powering its most advanced version of the F-35, according to newly disclosed delivery figures.
(Bloomberg) — Lockheed Martin Corp. may see more than $800 million in payments withheld through next June until it wins approval for the software powering its most advanced version of the F-35, according to newly disclosed delivery figures.
The No. 1 US defense contractor is on tap to finish production of about 52 of the upgraded TR-3 model fighter jets by Dec. 31 and approximately 12 per month after that, or 72 more by June 30, for as many as 124 jets, according to the data released Monday by Russ Goemaere, the Pentagon’s spokesman on the F-35.
The Pentagon is withholding $7 million per aircraft until the new software is validated because the aircraft are being placed in storage until then. At 124 jets, that’s $868 million. Last month, the Defense Department withheld $7 million on each of the first four upgraded F-35s.
Earlier: Lockheed Deliveries of Advanced F-35s Slip Again, Maybe to June
The aircraft needs the delay-plagued software upgrade to function fully with new cockpit hardware before it can carry more precise weapons and gather more information on enemy aircraft and air defenses. The upgrade will increase processing power 37 times and memory 20 times over the F-35’s current capabilities.
Lockheed said in a statement that “TR-3 remains our top priority. We continue to produce F-35s at a rate of 156 per year and expect to continue at that pace while simultaneously working to finalize TR-3 software and hardware integration, testing and delivery.”
Separately, long-delayed testing of the F-35 in an advanced Pentagon simulator is beginning Monday, according to a Pentagon spokesman. It’s the final stage of testing designed to determine whether the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system is up to countering the top Russian and Chinese air defenses and fighters, and it counts for 42% of the evaluation needed for a passing grade.
The Pentagon’s test office reaffirmed in a statement its long-standing view that the simulation is necessary as part of legally required testing before Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed can proceed with full-rate production. Of a potential fleet of 3,000 or more F-35s for the U.S. and international customers, at least 965 have been delivered. Many of those may need to be retrofitted based on findings from the tests.
The F-35 was supposed to fly the 64-sorties exercise in 2017 but it’s been postponed for years because of unresolved technical problems in the “Joint Simulation Environment” test facility compounded by the Covid pandemic. The Pentagon test office plans to deliver its test report no later than 90 days after the completion but doesn’t plan to publish an unclassified summary, it said.
(Updates with simulator testing starting in sixth paragraph)
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