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Lockheed Martin cuts F-35 delivery estimate for 2023

The UK's first F-35 rolls out of Lockheed Martin's factory in Fort Worth, Texas, in the US in 2011. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin expects to deliver 100–120 F-35s in 2023, down from an earlier projection of 147–153 aircraft because of delays in developing the fighter jet's Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) upgrade, according to company officials.

Lockheed Martin delivered 50 F-35s in the first half of 2023, all of which were in the earlier TR-2 configuration, company chairman, president, and CEO Jim Taiclet told analysts during an 18 July earnings call. However, Lockheed Martin “remains fully dedicated” to delivering its first aircraft with the TR-3 hardware and software upgrade in 2023, Taiclet said. TR-3 is supposed to improve the F-35‘s computer memory capacity and processing power.

“We have completed 58 flight tests on four different aircraft in the TR-3 configuration”, including a May flight test that involved “critical capabilities” such as upgraded datalinks, a new electro-optical targeting system, and radar, Taiclet said. Upcoming tests will incorporate multiple aircraft, sensor fusion, and additional weapons.

Despite the reduction in the 2023 delivery forecast, Taiclet said the company has not changed its expectation that annual deliveries will increase to 156 F-35s in 2025 and “the foreseeable future”. Lockheed Martin delivered 141 F-35s in 2022.

Taiclet highlighted several recent positive developments in the F-35 programme, including the first F-35 for Poland entering production, Rheinmetall selecting a site in Germany to build F-35 centre-fuselage sections, the Czech Republic expressing interest in buying the F-35, and Israel indicating it wants to expand its F-35 fleet by 50%.

“On the F-35 programme, we continue to see strengthening customer demand both domestically and internationally,” he said.

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