The US-led F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter programme has received approval to move to Full Rate Production (FRP) following the attainment of Milestone C landmark, more than 20 years after the aircraft entered the Low Rate Initial Production process.

Despite the programme’s delays and cost overruns, exemplified by a recent report from the US Government Accountability Office, countries like Greece, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland are investing in the F-35 programme. 

Greece purchased 40 F-35As for $8.6bn, the Czech Republic acquired 24 F-35s, and Switzerland integrated into the programme with a $746.3m contract. These partnerships signify the F-35’s growing presence globally.

“This decision—backed by my colleagues in the Department—highlights to the Services, F-35 Cooperative Programme Partners, and Foreign Military Sales customers that the F-35 is stable and agile and that all statutory and regulatory requirements have been appropriately addressed,” said the US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, William A LaPlante.

Lt Gen Mike Schmid, Director and Programme Executive Officer of the F-35 Joint Program Office, echoed such sentiments on the programme’s accomplishments. 

“The F-35 enterprise has made significant improvements over the last decade, and we will always be driven to continuously improve sustainability, interoperability, and lethality so warfighters have the capability needed to fight and win when called to do so,” Schmid said.

However, Lockheed Martin‘s 2023 results showed a $400m decline in net sales for the F-35 stealth fighter due to reduced production contract volumes. Despite overall comparable net sales in Q4 2023, F-35 programme sales decreased by $275m, leading to a 7% decrease in Aeronautics division operating profit.