The Pentagon has announced that an international team led by Lockheed Martin has won the competition to build the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a stealthy, supersonic, multirole fighter designed for the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
This win signals a go-ahead for the team of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE SYSTEMS to produce an initial 22 aircraft in the program’s $25 billion System Design and Development (SDD), formerly known as Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD), phase.
The total program is valued at approximately $200 billion and will reportedly be a cornerstone of future defence capability for the United States and its allied partners. Plans call for more than 3,000 aircraft over the life of the program. The Joint Strike Fighter is designed to replace the A-10, the AV-8 Harrier, F-16 and the F/A-18.
The announcement caps a four-year, $1 billion Concept Demonstration program that proved, for the first time ever that stealth and supersonic capabilities could be combined in an affordable, multirole fighter that also accommodates the operating requirements of the US military and its allied partners.
Three versions of the JSF are planned; all of which will be supersonic and capable of evading radar. They will also be equipped with advanced avionics designed to enhance the pilot’s situational awareness.
Range and payload will be markedly greater than those of current fighter aircraft. JSF is designed to require significantly less maintenance and support than fighters currently in service, cutting long-term ownership costs by half.
The Lockheed Martin team will fly the first test aircraft in 2005 and deliver the first operational JSF in 2008.