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The F-35 is one of the most recognizable fighter aircraft in the world. It is also a result of one of the most extensive military partnerships ever. While the US is the largest F-35 user, the almost 900 models built so far are spread out around the globe. But who makes the F-35 fighter aircraft?
Who Makes The F-35 Fighter Aircraft?
The primary manufacturer of the F-35 fighter aircraft is Lockheed Martin, although they are not tackling the project alone. A whopping 1,500 suppliers from all over the world are involved in the production of the aircraft. These manufacturers are spread out across ten different countries.
Of course, since the F-35 is primarily built by Lockheed Martin, we will focus purely on them as the manufacturer. We would be here all day if we had to cover all 1,500 partners in the program.
About Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is the principal manufacturer of all three F-35 fighter aircraft variants, and they beat out Boeing in the competition to produce a next-generation fighter. Lockheed Martin is one of the world's largest aerospace and defense companies.
The company was formed after a merger between Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta in 1995.
Over the years, Lockheed Martin has managed to pick up an astonishing number of government contracts. At the time of writing, they are the largest defense contractor in the world, and they show no sign of being beaten to the title any time soon.
Perhaps the most significant source of revenue for Lockheed Martin at the moment started in 2001. It was then that they were awarded the contract to develop and produce the F-35. The initial contract was for 3,000 units; currently, they are about a third of the way through production. The fighter jets are being shipped worldwide under the Joint Strike Fighter program, which we will discuss in a bit more depth shortly.
In addition to developing fighter jets (and other aircraft) for the military, Lockheed Martin is also heavily involved in producing missiles and other defense systems. They are also working on getting into the world of space tech. However, the US Federal Trade Commission rejected their recent attempted acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne. Thus, the company is looking for other ways to enter the space tech arena, which will likely be a massive business in the future.
Where Is The F-35 Built?
The F-35 has components manufactured all over the world. Lockheed Martin puts together the aircraft at its plant in Forth Worth, Texas. Here, they have a complete facility dedicated to producing the F-35 (including training equipment for new pilots).
As mentioned, the parts are shipped from around the world. Ten countries are sending manufactured components to the Fort Worth plant in Texas. A further 46 countries are involved in the manufacture of these components. On top of that, Puerto Rico also produces several components for the company. It is unknown precisely which parts are manufactured and where.
Over 24,000 people in the US have some impact on the F-35 program, and it is a huge source of employment. In addition, thousands of people around the globe contribute to the production of the F-35, including even more Lockheed Martin employees.
About The Joint Strike Fighter Program
The F-35 is the result of the Joint Strike Fighter program. There are actually three variants of the F-35, all a result of the JSF program.
The Joint Strike Fighter program is a program for developing and procuring new fighter, strike, and ground attack aircraft to replace various current models for the participating countries.
The JSF program is also intended to cut costs in aircraft production, specifically fighter jets. By having multiple countries contribute to the same project, Lockheed Martin should be able to reduce the prices of manufacturing and designing the F-35 significantly. It also helps with training pilots across various nations.
The nations involved in the Joint Strike Fighter program include:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- the Netherlands
- Turkey (kicked out of the JSF program in 2019)
Most of the program is funded by the United States. As the largest customer, they also receive most of the F-35s produced under the program. Overall, the estimated cost of the Joint Strike Fighter program across all participating nations is $1.1 trillion. That does not include the ongoing costs of running the aircraft.
While the program has come under much criticism over the years, including massive cost overruns and performance issues with the F-35 fighter jet, this program will continue for the foreseeable future, and the plane is seeing combat worldwide. A lot of what the countries have learned about this program impacts other air defense agreements (including the production of helicopters). These don't seem to have anywhere near the same number of issues.
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