Editor’s Note: All twelve partner nations are doing their best to make their dollars stretch as far as they can, so that means being smart with the timing of their acquisitions, as well as the rate at which they procure them. It’s good news for Lockheed-Martin, but potentially bad timing for some nations that aren’t able to pool enough budget to participate in a “block buy” kind of arrangement. We will see who can afford to opt in, and how many aircraft are ordered as a result.

Lockheed Martin can still support a bulk F-35 buy among international partners in fiscal year 2017, but time is running out for the Joint Program Office to make a final decision.

If the F-35 international partners want to participate in a “block buy” beginning in FY17, Lockheed needs to know within the next six months in order to prepare the supply chain, company F-35 program manager Jeff Babione told reporters Feb. 25.

“It takes about two years to order the parts for any given lot — you really need about two, two and a half years to make sure the supply chain is ready for that,” Babione said during the Air Force Association’s air warfare symposium in Orlando, Florida. “For a 2018 buy we probably have time, for 2017 we probably need to do that in the next six months.”

Lockheed: Partners Must Decide On F-35 Block Buy
The first Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II jet arrived at Luke Air Force Base Dec. 18, 2014. The jet’s arrival marks the first international partner F-35 to arrive for training at Luke. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

If the international partners move forward with a block buy in FY17, the US will not participate, JPO chief Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters Feb. 10. However, the US could choose to opt in to such a deal in later years, he said.

The Pentagon’s latest budget request reflects a decision to include advanced funding in FY18 for a block buy to start in FY19, Bogdan said. The deal would cover FY19 through FY21 and is expected to save over $2 billion in total, he stressed.

The article at Defense News can be viewed in its entirety here.