The F-35 is delivering more than just air dominance, it’s simultaneously delivering tens of thousands of high paying, high quality jobs to American workers across the country, and around the world.
According to standard industry accepted economic forecasting, the F-35 is responsible for more than 254,000+ direct and indirect U.S. jobs.
Equally impressive to the program’s job creation prowess is the sheer size of its economic footprint. The Lockheed Martin F-35 program teams with nearly 1,800 domestic suppliers in 45 states and Puerto Rico to produce thousands of components from highly sophisticated radar sensors to the aircraft’s mid-fuselage.
The United States is rapidly building an international community based around the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The military value of such a community is indisputable. The F-35 will be one of the pillars supporting the creation of a new, sensor-rich way of warfare. But as the negotiations that led to the opening of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) demonstrated, potential international sales of the F-35 can provide significant diplomatic leverage as well. Moreover, experience has shown that operating the same platform and training together can bring militaries closer together.
Allies with the United States are actively upgrading their amphibious assault ships and aircraft carriers to carry F-35B Lightning II fighters.
According to the Italian Ministry of Defense, the navy’s Cavour aircraft carrier arrived at the Taranto shipyard in July 2019, ready to carry out conversion work to meet the standards of F-35B fighter. The first phase of the modification process will take about 6 months. After the completion of the first phase, the Cavour will be handed over to the Fincantini shipyard for further modification.
The Italian Navy has invested 70 million Euro to upgrade and modernize this aircraft carrier. After being upgraded, stealth fighters capable of short take-off and vertical-landing F-35B will replace the existing AV-8B Harrier. The carrier is expected to resume operation in September 2020.
After the Japanese Navy announced its intention to procure 40 short take-off and vertical-landing F-35B Lightning II to equip the Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, Italy recently made a similar move.
The sale of the F-35 to close friends and allies has an impact on the cost of the aircraft for all recipients. Some 500 aircraft have already been delivered. The next lots will produce nearly as many: 476 aircraft over the next few years. Foreign buyers have committed to some 800 aircraft or almost 25 percent of the total number expected to be produced. There are projections of potential foreign sales for the JSF, reaching 1,700 aircraft.
The JSF price is coming down as production reaches economic ordering quantities, due in part to strong international demand. The benchmark variant’s price, the conventional takeoff/landing F-35A, is now down to $80 million per copy, less than the most advanced variant of the F-16. As the unit price declines, more nations will be in a position to acquire the F-35.
Earlier this month, the USS Carl Vinson broke new ground by becoming the first refitted aircraft carrier to fly F-35s as part of its normal flight operations. If current plans hold, it is likely to become the first to fly the Navy’s experimental refueling drone in a. few years as well.
The 36-year old Vinson just wrapped up a major refit to accommodate the specialized needs of the F-35, and is practicing launches and recoveries now off the California coast.
The ship will deploy with F-35s in 2021, marking the first deployment of F-35Cs. Marine F-35Bs have already deployed on amphibious ships USS Wasp, America, and Essex to the Middle East and Pacific over the past two years. But those vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have different requirement than the Navy’s more traditional launch and recovery aircraft, which are flying from the Vinson.
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