By Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
More than 25 countries have expressed interest in Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, including Singapore, which is still evaluating its options, and South Korea, which is due to pick a winner in its fighter competition by year’s end, top Lockheed officials said on Wednesday.
South Korean officials are due to visit Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas, production facility and other sites later this year for weeks of data-gathering, including classified simulator tests, as they weigh the F-35 bid, according to sources familiar with what will be handled as a government-to-government sale…..
Japan’s decision to buy the F-35 last December gave the program a big boost, but U.S. officials are keen to lock in more customers to help increase the number of jets being built, which in turn will reduce the price of all planes that are eventually built….
The U.S. government and six of the eight partner countries have put jets under contract. Israel and Japan have also signed agreements locking in their procurements.
“That’s the ultimate measure of normalcy,” Stephen O’Bryan, vice president of F-35 business development at Lockheed, told Reuters in a separate interview at the air show. “It’s the ultimate measure of confidence in the program.”
Italian Air Force Lieutenant General Paolo Civalleri told Reuters at the air show that his country was satisfied with progress on the plane. “Everybody is comfortable; the only problem is the budget,” Civalleri said…..
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