Pentagon to Buy 31 Lockheed Martin Stealth Fighters

The deal is worth $3.5 billion.

In a deal worth $3.5 billion, the Pentagon has ordered 31 F-35 stealth fighter jets from Lockheed Martin.

The contrac calls for a delivery of 30 planes to the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy as well as one jet destined for British forces, Lockheed Martin said.

The Netherlands also has an option to buy this jet from the world's largest defense company.

Including funding ,which has already been made available for the program, the total value of the deal will reach $3.9 billion.

"We are focused on getting 5th generation fighter capability into the hands of U.S. and allied pilots as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible," said Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager.

The current contract adds to an earlier one also for 31 F-35s, of which three have already left the company's factory in Fort Worth.

The United States is planning to equip its forces with a total of 2,000 F-35s, which have been developed in cooperation with Britain's BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, to replace its aging fleet of F-16s and F-18s.

Other countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Turkey and Italy, have also been involved in developing the program.

Lockheed Martin said the F-35 program directly or indirectly employs about 127,000 people. Thousands more are employed in its partner countries.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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