No F-35B? No Big Deal

By Ray Peterson, Forecast International

Okay, everyone wants to see the F-35B at the Farnborough Airshow. The U.S DoD has already deployed the aircraft and it doesn’t look good if it can’t deploy to this major aeronautical event. Lockheed Martin is staking its reputation on the fighter that can do it all and it’s not doing the company any good if the planes are sitting on a tarmac in America. And Britain, home to legends of reggie spotters, would like the bragging rights that come with having such a notable aircraft appearing for the first time at the home of British aviation.

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The F-35B is a no-show for Monday’s opening day, probably Tuesday, too. In fact, it’s likely the fighter may not make it to the show during the five trade days or the two public days on Saturday and Sunday.

However, the F-35B’s absence from the show won’t result in a flood of cancellations, nor is it likely that any country considering procuring the aircraft will be negatively influenced if its military officials can’t see it fly at Farnborough. It’s quite common for new aircraft programs to experience issues of one kind or another at some point during their development or early operations. Just ask Airbus (A380 and A400M), Boeing (787), and Bombardier (CSeries).

Coincidentally, the U.S. Navy last week awarded Boeing a $1.9 billion contract for 11 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 21 EA-18G Growler EW aircraft, and 12 EA-12Gs for Australia. As Forecast International’s defense analyst Shaun McDougall notes, the Navy has increased Super Hornet procurement in recent years to offset potential fighter shortfalls stemming from F-35 delays.

By the way, the Super Hornet will be flying during the show. For the F-35, there will always be Paris next year.