Lockheed, frustrated with US Air Force, Eyes Foreign F-35 Sales

The service's proposed purchase of Boeing F-15s has increased the sales effort on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

Lockheed Martin is becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that US Air Force will not increase its planned purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and suggested that growth can be replaced by increased interest in Eastern Europe and Asia.

"The frustrating piece for us is U.S. Air Force," Lockheed CFO Ken Possenriede said while discussing the Q1[ads1] results with Wall Street analysts on Tuesday. "We continue to work with our customer and with government representatives on what is the right way forward."

In the 2020 budget proposal, Air Force officials said they intend to buy 48 F-35 jets every year through 2024 The budget also calls for funding for eight new F- 15EX fighters, the first of a planned 80 over the next five years.

Overall, the Defense Ministry's F-35 demand is "strong," said Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed's leader, president, and CEO on the conversation. Pentagon leaders have been "very clear that they will stick to their full procurement plan for that jet."

"They have no intention of withdrawing from it at all," Hewson said. "We look ahead. How [Pentagon leaders] manages what they buy from year to year – it has always been a challenge when they look at what their general needs are in terms of the budgets they are going to work with."

Air Force Commander Gen. David Goldfein has said he wants to buy 72 new games each year to lower the average age of his fleet jets from 28 to 15.

"If we had the money, they would be 72 F-35," Goldfein told Defense News in January. "But we have to look at this from a price / business case. An F-15 will never be an F-35. Never. But I need capacity."

Overall, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have asked the 78 F Congress -35s in fiscal 2020. A bipartisan group of 103 lawmakers, part of the Joint Strike Fighter caucus, encourages authors and grants to add 24 more jets, half of them to the Air Force.

Lawmakers have routinely added F-35s to the Pentagon's budget. Only last year, Congress made 16 plans to the 77 requested by the Pentagon.

Just days after the Pentagon sent the budget request to Congress, Lockheed began circulating a three-page white paper on Capitol Hill describing the "F-35s crucial edge" over fourth-generation warplanes such as the F-15.

"We continue to drive the plane down," Lockheeds Possenriede said.

Referring to figures from the White Paper, Possenriede said each air force F-35 purchased in fiscal 2020 costs "under $ 80 million", while the cost per flight time will come down to $ 25,000 by 2025.

This week, Bloomberg reported that An extensive set of upgrades to the F-35 fleet will add $ 22 billion to the F-35's total cost.

Lockheed is expected to build more than 130 F-35 for US and Allies this year. Hewson said Lockheed's factories can be configured to cut out 180 F-35s per year.

Even with questions about Turkey's planned purchase of F-35 jets, the international demand for the jet aircraft has risen. Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain and Poland have all expressed an interest in the F-35, Vice President Mat Winter, head of the F-35 program, told lawmakers in written testimony earlier this month.

Hewson also mentioned Japan's plan to increase its total purchase of the F-35s.

"We continue to see increased opportunities for F-35," she said. "There is strong international demand."

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