U.D. Defense official foresees F-35 sales of 6,000 units

Partner countries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are expected to order 3,100 planes. A U.S. official says that number could reach 6,000.

U.S. defense contractor Lockeed Martin Corp. (Bethesda, Md., USA) said on June 17 that it has received 31 firm orders for its Joint Strike Fighter plane and foresees potential sales coming to 6,000. "We have 31 production airplanes in backlog - that means in contract," Thomas Burbage, executive vice president of the JSF program, said at the Paris Air Show.

Most of the orders have been placed by the U.S. government, along with two from the U.K., he added. The JSF, or F-35, is a joint project grouping industries in the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Turkey and Italy. The $300 billion program is to replace the fleet of F-16 and F-18 fighter jets now in service in the second half of the next decade. The fighter jet features a composites-intensive airframe.

"Amongst the partnership, we are predicting somewhere around 3,100 airplanes," Burbage said. "Outside of that ... the potential for sales, which is problematical right now to estimate what that is, but it quite likely is somewhere between a thousand and more."

But Brigadier General David Heinz, the head of the JSF program for the U.S. Defense Department, added that "if you look at the number of aircraft to be replaced ... you could easily get to 6,000." Israel, Singapore, Spain, Japan, Finland and South Korea have expressed interest in the JSFAi, Heinz said.