The US Department of Defence has awarded Lockheed Martin with a $210m modified contract on 27 March to provide wide-ranging logistical support for the F-35B Lightning II fleet in the UK Royal Air Force (RAF).

This modification includes ground maintenance activities, depot activities, automatic logistics information system operations and maintenance, supply chain and warehouse management, pilot training and maintainer training in support of delivered F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Air Systems for the UK Government.

Work will occur in Marham, UK (85%); Fort Worth, Texas, US (5%); and Orlando, Florida (5%), and is expected to be completed in December 2027.

This contract follows a string of substantial efforts to support the Joint Strike Fighter Programme (JSFP) in which the UK is a leading partner. This logistical support follows past efforts, including a £76m contract to boost F-35 support in the UK in January 2021.

Most recently, the Australia-Canada-UK F-35 data centre received $106m on 9 March to support the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of their F-35 fleets. Additionally, the original equipment manufacturer of the jet, Lockheed Martin, has been perpetually expanding the capabilities of the jet to ensure the combat aircraft becomes the standard fighter jet across Nato member fleets.

Investment in the JSFP

According to GlobalData, Lockheed’s F-35 family of combat aircraft have received the most amount of spending by militaries across the world, and by a significant margin too.

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The F-35B alone – the RAF’s variant – registers a compound annual growth rate of 4.02%, increasing from $3.2bn in 2023 to $4.7bn in 2033 according to GlobalData’s report on The Global Military Fixed Wing Aircraft Market Forecast, 2023-2033. Of this figure, the UK’s expenditure on their fleet will increase from $550m in 2023 to $1.13bn in the same period.

This programme is astonishingly lucrative, and the combat aircraft requires a constant eye to keep track of its efficacy in the skies. With the aircraft’s importance overreaching its military capability, as its political significance as the western coalitionary forces’ symbol of aerial deterrence in preserving the rules-based order has been emphasised emphatically in the past.

No wonder Lockheed Martin has been tasked with ensuring the survivability of the aircraft around the world so meticulously. With its ground maintenance and supply chain support, the recent contract will prove vital if the stealth fighter continues as the backbone of aerial capability in the age of modern warfare.