Congress has required that the Air Force secretary certify the F-35 will be in top shape within two years before future contracts are signed. Lockheed Martin has also spent $1 billion of its own money for production while awaiting the contract negotiations.

Congress withheld $1 billion of about $5.3 billion the USAF requested for F-35s this year until the certification is made. The Secretary of the Air Force must certify the F-35 is fully capable with all improvements completed within two years. The most advanced “3F” version software and the ability to carry a full range of weapons will be a part of the requirements for final certification.

On August 2nd, the USAF declared IOC (Initial Operational Capability) for the F-35A.

The 9th and 10th Low rate initial production contracts are for 57 and 90 aircraft respectively. The contracts are expected to be valued around $14 billion dollars. Lockheed has been spending its own money to continue the production line while awaiting the certification–to the tune of $1 billion dollars.

“We expected to recover a significant amount of cash associated with the completion of negotiations” on the two contracts by now, Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner told analysts during a July 19 earnings call.

The 5th Generation fighter is America’s most expensive military weapons system at a projected cost of about $379 billion. Foreign sales are partners such as the U.K., Italy, Israel, Australia, and Japan are key to driving the individual sales costs of the jet down. The USAF is the largest buyer with an expected 1763 F-35’s to be procured.

“Our goal and our intent is to have the secretary’s certification completed before they would sign the final [contract]” Lieutenant General Arnold Bunch, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official, said.

No date has been released on when the certification will occur.

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Top Photo credit: A four-ship of F-35A Lightning IIs returns to Eglin Air Force Base. Hill AFB F-35’s were the first to receive IOC (initial operational capability). (Photo courtesy of Fox 6 Now)