Lockheed Martin said on June 17 it had received 31 firm orders for its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) plane and foresaw potential sales coming to 6,000.
"We have 31 production airplanes in backlog -- that means in contract," Thomas Burbage, executive vice president of the JSF program, said at the Paris Air Show. Most of the orders have been placed by the U.S. government, along with two from Britain, he said.
The JSF, or F-35, is a joint project grouping industries in the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Turkey and Italy. The $300 billion program is to replace the fleet of F-16 and F-18 fighter jets currently in service in the second half of the next decade. "Amongst the partnership, we are predicting somewhere around 3,100 airplanes," Burbage said.
"Outside of that ... the potential for sales, which is problematical right now to estimate what that is, but it quite likely is somewhere between a thousand and more."
But General David Heinz, the head of the JSF program, added that "if you look at the number of aircraft to be replaced ... you could easily get to 6,000."
Israel, Singapore, Spain, Japan, Finland and South Korea have expressed interest in the JSF, Heinz said.
Heinz said 99 test flights have already been carried out.
One version of the aircraft is designed for vertical take-off and landing. The first flight to test the plane's vertical take-off capacity is scheduled to take place by the end of September, Heinz said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009