July 21, 2016
Contract negotiations for lots 9 and 10 of the F-35 have been particularly drawn out, prompting Lockheed Martin to independently front nearly $1 billion in payments to suppliers, which were needed to order long lead time components for the manufacture of these aircraft. These low initial rate production (LRIP) lots include nine F-35B aircraft intended for the UK, prompting the British government to urge the Pentagon to close on negotiations promptly, to avoid delivery interruptions.
Despite reassurances from the White House, it remains unclear what affect the recent coup attempt in Turkey might have on the production of the F-35. The failed coup has been seized upon by the Turkish government as an excuse to crack down on opposition, including the purge of more than 20,000 from the top ranks of the police, universities, and judiciary - moves that could eventually affect the willingness of the United States to go forward with the delivery of the 100 F-35 fighters that Turkey currently has on order. Turkey is also an industrial partner in the F-35 program, supplying components to aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, as well as the engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney.
The U.S. Air Force has expressed renewed interest in developing a new aircraft to specifically replace the A-10 Warthog, rather than assigning the F-35 to the close air support role as is currently planned.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have both expressed an interest in competing for Japan's proposed $40 billion program to replace the Mitsubishi F-2 with a new, fifth generation "stealth" fighter. Japan is currently looking for industrial partners to help develop the proposed aircraft, while at the same time funding flight test of the Shinshin technology demonstrator.
China has completed manufacture of its second production-standard J-20 stealth fighter (or fourth production aircraft, according to other reports), and is expected to have the first 12 in operational service by the end of 2017.