Lockheed Pitching F-35 to Greece, Czech Republic and Spain

The USMC's F-35B STOVL.

An official has noted new active sales campaigns in Europe for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), reported British magazine Janes.

Speaking under the Chatham House Rule, the official said that, in addition to the already known competition in Finland and the previously disclosed requirement in Greece, the F-35 is currently engaged in hitherto undeclared campaigns in two other European countries.

“A number of other [European] countries have expressed interest officially, and that would be Spain, Greece, and the Czech Republic. [These] are in active campaign,” the official said on 3 November.

Active sales campaigns for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are underway in the Czech Republic, Greece and Spain, officials say. Although fighter tenders have yet to be initiated in the three countries, all of them have issued requests for information (RFI) for Western fighters including F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon. Czech Republic issued requests for information (RFI) for Saab Gripen and Lockheed’s F-35.

According to National Interest magazine, Saudi Arabi and Qatar have express interest in F-35A stealth jet.

According to Spanish RFI, the Spanish tender covers both the Air Force (EdA) and the Navy for 25 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35As to replace the former’s EF-18 Hornets, and 25 short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35Bs to replace the latter’s McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II/II+s. F-35 selection is scheduled for 2025 and deliveries will begin in approximately 2027.

Given that the Spanish Navy currently operates the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II/II+ (VA.2 in national service) from its amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I, it has long been known that the service will need to acquire the F-35B, as the only STOVL aircraft option available on the market, when it eventually retires the Harrier in the early 2030s.

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In Spanish media and the general public, the lack of an official announcement in this regard had generated understandable nervousness about the future of the Ninth Squadron, the fighter and strike component of the Spanish Navy that operates the Harriers. If the Government’s determination to acquire the F-35Bs is confirmed, the veil obscuring the future of the Spanish on-board fighter component will disappear.

It is unknown what impact the possible 25 F-35A for the EdA will have on Spain’s commitments to the future of the tri-national FCAS program.

The Czech requirement is for up to 40 aircraft with the same timelines, with the F-35A variant being offered (the Czech government also requested information on the F-16, but Lockheed Martin chose to focus its offer on the F-35A), replacing the 14 JAS-39 Gripen C/Ds operated by its Air Force under lease until 2027.

On the second day of the show, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis visited both Saab and Lockheed Martin, but was pictured sat in the F-35A FSR. Lockheed Martin’s Randy Howard told the premier: “The flyaway cost of the F-35A is now US$78.9 million and getting lower, as more countries join the programme and the operational cost is cheaper than any of its rivals.”

As for Greece, at the time it expressed interest in acquiring the units originally destined for Turkey, some 20 aircraft. This had been announced by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in October last year. But since then the Hellenic Air Force’s modernization efforts have focused on converting its F-16s to Viper standard and buying 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets.

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