December 12, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Following the Netherlands, Britain, Australia, and Canada have now also signed an agreement committing to the next development and production phase of the U.S.-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project.
The F-35 Lightning II rolls out on December 7th, 2006 at NAS Fort Worth to conduct taxi tests.
While this doesn't mean a formally committed to buy the aircraft, it definitely shows a clear intention.
The remaining partners on the $280-billion project to develop and build a new family of radar-evading jets, Italy
have until the end of the year to sign.
Once the Production, Sustainment and Follow-On Development Memorandum of Understanding (PSFD MoU
) signing process is complete, the partners will cooperatively develop, produce, test, train and operate the F-35 Lightning II.
Norway's agreement might slip into next year, because of questions in its legislature about its industry's share of F-35-related contracts, Heinz said.
In the Pentagon's largest contract in history, over 3,000 F-35 Lightning II aircraft are planned to be produced eventually, with the United States buying around 2,400.
After 10 years of development, lead contractor Lockheed Martin, is moving to the early stages of production for what could eventually be thousands of fighter jets for the American military and eight countries.
The first F-35 test aircraft is on track for first flight this week.