Is F-35 Heading For Global Fighter Aircraft Domination?

  • Our Bureau
  • 02:59 PM, September 25, 2014
  • 9842
Is F-35 Heading For Global Fighter Aircraft Domination?
"First F-35 headed for USAF service" by U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago

The success of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter in South Korea and its acceptance by several NATO partners could make it the world’s dominant warplane in the coming years.

The fifth generation stealth warplane looks set to grab market share from rival 4.5 generation planes such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F-15, F18, the Dassault Rafale and the SAAB Gripen.

Till date 12 countries have ordered an approximate 3300 units of the F-35. The customers include US, UK, Australia, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Israel.

After 2018, the F-35 is likely to capture over a 50 percent share of the global fighter jet market, says Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst for the Teal Group, in a February report. At about the same time, most U.S. and European fourth generation fighters are scheduled to end production, with many manufacturers exiting fighter jet production altogether.
The F-35 is looking to have a very significant international presence that will probably suck up most of the orders from U.S. allies.

The United States is home to only two manufacturers of fighter jets — Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Under current plans, Lockheed’s F-16 and Boeing’s F-15 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will go out of production by 2020.

Boeing is considering closing down its stealth fighter program due to decline in military budgets, cost reduction in the U.S and other European nations, Bidnessetc website reported earlier this month.
Orders for F/A-18 jets are declining as most investments are concentrated in F-35 joint fighter striker. The F-35 is widely regarded as the future of fighter aircraft, with ten countries partnering up for research and development, component manufacturing, and expense contribution.

The situation is not much brighter for European manufacturers. The Eurofighter Typhoon designed by a consortium of U.K.-based BAE Systems, Italian aerospace company Alenia Aermacchi and the Franco-German Airbus Group — will leave the market by 2018 unless there are further orders. If France’s Dessault retains its order from India, it could produce the Rafale until about 2025. Both companies do not have any plans of developing fifth generation fighters.

Only Sweden’s Saab appears likely to survive as a fighter manufacturer, thanks to its contract from Brazil to purchase 36 aircraft and earlier orders in Thailand and South Africa.

The impact of the joint strike fighter on the European defense industry could be enormous. If the F-35’s price decreases to about $85 million per unit, the F-35 may do to Europe’s defense industry what the F-16 almost did.

Boeing may find itself pushed out of the fighter business by the end of the decade. The F-15 is scheduled to end production after deliveries to Saudi Arabia in 2019. The line for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and its electronic warfare variant, the E/A-18G Growler, is scheduled to shut down in 2016, but US orders for additional Growlers in the fiscal year 2015 budget could extend the line.

Boeing is keeping busy with international campaigns for both platforms, says Steve Nordlund, the company’s director of global strike business development was quoted as saying in a report by International Business Times. Boeing recently submitted a bid to replace Denmark’s fighter fleet. Its Super Hornet will face off against the F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon. The company would likely also offer the Super Hornet to Canada if it chooses to begin a fighter competition, he says.

The United Arab Emirates is considering buying the F-15, F/A-18E/F, Typhoon or Rafale to fill a requirement of 60 planes. However the country may just bide its time and buy the F-35 later on.

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