June 17, 2006 (by Jeff Hollenbeck) - Things just aren't what they used to be when it comes to building fighter jets these days.
The first part for the first F-35 JSF aircraft was cut on 10 November 2003. Since then, thousands of parts have been coming together as the team works to complete the first F-35. [USAF Photo]
With increased consumption of raw structural materials such as aluminum and titanium by the general aviation market and foreign powers such as China, Lockeed Martin is working to make sure that supplies don't run short for in the future for its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production line.
Lockheed has taken several steps to make sure that materials will be available down the road and that the price tag for the new fighter jets won't rise too high. On June 13, Lockheed authorized $12 million to purchase tooling for F-35 production. Lockheed is also working to develop longer term relationships with some of its raw materials suppliers.
One other concern for Lockheed is the possiblility of funding cuts for early F-35 production which have already begun to be discussed in Congress. Such funding cuts would not only delay production, they would also increase the price of production F-35s.
While several partner countries have already stated publicly that they are considering other aircraft due to the already rising cost of the F-35, none have made any firm commitment to do so.