Sunday, 31 May 2020

Russian Navy accepts delivery of ballistic missile carrier submarine

Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Russian Navy accepts delivery of ballistic missile carrier submarine

The Russian Navy has accepted delivery of the strategic ballistic missile carrier submarine Knyaz Vladimir from the Sevmash shipyard.

Xinhua quoted Sevmash shipyard as saying in a statement: “The acceptance certificate has been signed after the successful completion of all stages of the submarine’s testing, confirming its readiness for transfer to the navy.”

Laid down at Sevmash in 2012, the vessel delivered is the improved Borei-A class project of the fourth-generation nuclear submarines.

Borei-A-class submarines have the ability to carry up to 16 Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles each. They are also armed with 533mm torpedo tubes.

The submarine has also upgraded features with better acoustic stealth, maneuvering and deep-sea running capabilities, and an improved armament control system.

The upgraded version of previous Borei-class vessels, these vessels are said to be a significant part of the Russia’s naval strategic nuclear forces in the future.

The missile carrier successfully concluded the state test cycle in December last year.

In October the same year, the vessel’s crew was successful in performing its first test launch of the Bulava missile from the White Sea. They also conducted the Kura test site in the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.

Currently, the Russian Navy operates three baseline Project 955 Borei submarines including Yuri Dolgoruky, Vladimir Monomakh, and Alexander Nevsky.

Located in the port city of Severodvinsk on the White Sea, Sevmash is the Russian Navy’s sole nuclear submarine manufacturer.

It is scheduled to deliver four more nuclear-powered Borei-A submarines to the Russian Navy this year. In addition, it plans to build two more vessels.

Twice as expensive as the Mistral. Two universal landing ships for the Russian Navy

Вдвое дороже «Мистралей». Два универсальных десантных корабля для ВМФ РФ

Translated by google

May 26, 2020

On May 22, TASS announced the conclusion of a contract between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Zaliv shipyard (Kerch) for the construction of two UDCs for the Russian Navy in the amount of approximately 100 billion rubles. For the domestic fleet universal landing ships are a new project. In the USSR, and then in Russia, ships of this class were not built. At the same time, there was experience in creating large helicopter carriers in the Soviet Union, but these were anti-submarine cruisers, the main task of which was the fight against enemy submarines.

New Russian UDC will cost the fleet twice as much as Mistral

According to TASS, the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a contract with the Zaliv shipyard located in Kerch for the construction of the first two universal landing ships (UDC) for the Russian fleet. The total cost of the contract is estimated at about 100 billion rubles, sources in the Russian defense industry told reporters about this. According to the interlocutors of the agency, the laying of the ships should take place in the coming weeks. Consequently, with a high degree of probability we can say that this will happen in the summer of 2020.

Back in 2019, the Russian press discussed information that the head UDC should be transferred to the fleet in 2025, and both ships should be ready before 2027. At the same time, the official dates for the laying and delivery of ships are not known. At the same time, the TASS report itself says that the agency does not have official confirmation of information about the contract, and the press service of the Zaliv shipbuilding company told reporters that they were ready to build landing helicopter carriers for the Russian fleet, however, they noted that they did not have information about the deal.

There is not so much information about the new UDC, the construction plans of which are regularly discussed since the order in France of two Mistral ships. But now we can say that two universal landing ships will cost the Russian budget more than their French counterparts.

A contract signed in June 2011 with France for the construction of the Mistral universal landing helicopter carrier ship was estimated at 1-1.2 billion euros. At the same time, it is known for certain that for breaking the contract France returned 949 million 754 thousand euros to Russia, as well as Russian equipment installed on the ships. In any case, at the time of the conclusion of the contract in 2011, the purchase of Mistral cost the Russian budget approximately 41-49 billion rubles at the then exchange rate (the average exchange rate for 2011 was 40.9 rubles per euro).

Two new UDCs of Russian construction will cost taxpayers already 100 billion rubles, that is, at least twice as much. At the same time, the ruble, of course, seriously depreciated against the euro and the dollar after 2014, but the cost of the ships still increased markedly. At the current rate, this is already 1.337 billion euros (the average rate for 2020 is 75.9 rubles per euro). At the same time, experts note that the externally presented ships resemble the Mistral, although they have grown slightly in size. In any case, it is impossible to compare projects face-to-face at this stage, since the new Russian UDC will most likely be larger than the French, plus it is not known what equipment and weapons will be installed on board the ships. However, the price is still alarming. Especially considering the fact that the ships are planned to be built not in France, but in Russia.

What is known about the project of the new UDC

Little is known about the draft of the new UDC. Earlier in the press, the draft of the Russian UDC “Priboy”, developed by specialists of the Nevsky Design Bureau, was widely discussed, but now we are talking about another project. According to the bmpd specialized military blog, which is published under the auspices of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, this is about project 23900, which was developed by employees of the Zelenodolsk Design Bureau, which is part of the Ak-Bars shipbuilding corporation.

The first materials and images of the UDC of project 23900 appeared in early January 2020, after the Zvezda TV channel released a newsthe plot of Putin's visit to Sevastopol. Here, on January 9, the Russian president visited an exposition dedicated to the development prospects of the Russian Navy. The exposition was deployed in the building of the Black Sea Higher Naval Order of the Red Star of the Nakhimov School. Within the framework of the exhibition in Sevastopol, enterprises of the military-industrial complex of Russia presented their promising developments, among which warships occupied a special place.

According to experts, the presented images of the UDC of project 23900 allow us to talk about the significant external similarity of this project with the French Mistrals. The bmpd blog explicitly called the project “largely a clone” of the French UDC. The ships are really very similar in appearance and, apparently, have a similar architecture and layout of the internal landing decks. At the same time, the Russian version came out wider than its French counterpart, which affected the displacement and increased capacity of the ship.

Certain questions are caused by the choice of a design company. The development and construction of UDC in Russia and the USSR have never been involved. But the real experience in creating large warships, the same heavy aircraft-carrying cruisers of Project 1143, was with the Nevsky Design Bureau. However, it was not they or another Petersburg company, the Krylov State Scientific Center, who were responsible for the development of the UDC, but the Zelenodolsk Design Bureau. The company, of course, is successful, but has won a place under the sun with projects of small missile ships: Buyanov and Cheetahs. Previously, the company did not design warships larger than the Cheetahs, the displacement of which is less than 2000 tons.

It is obvious that Russia, to some extent, became the owner of the technology and design documentation on Mistral, which makes it possible to design ships even with the help of specialists from the corporation, which used to supply numerous patrol and small missile ships for export and for domestic use with good quality . Specialists also include advanced technologies mastered here in the design bureau from Zelenodolsk. It was the enterprise from Tatarstan that was the first in the industry to introduce a software and hardware complex of virtual prototyping. Thanks to this complex, designers and customers even before the start of construction can walk through the interior of the future warship in 3D glasses, evaluating how the project will look at the construction and commissioning stage.

Technical characteristics of the new UDC

The most interesting is the technical characteristics of the new UDC. The longest ship is 204 meters wide and 38 meters wide. Thus, the Russian version is slightly longer than the “Frenchman”, but noticeably wider - by 6 meters. It is no coincidence that the ship has a large total displacement, which is estimated at about 25 thousand tons; for Mistral, the total displacement was 21,300 tons. The draft of the ship will be approximately 7.5 meters, which is more than a meter higher than the similar parameter of the "French", who never reached the Russian coast.

The main tasks of the new Russian UDC will be:
- transportation of troops operating in coastal directions;
- Reception, transportation by sea and the landing of troops and troops;
- fire damage to enemy airborne defense facilities.

The last item, which is on the footage shown by the Zvezda TV channel, may indicate that offensive weapons will be placed on board the UDC, and not just sea-based attack helicopters. It is reported that universal landing ships of the new Russian project will be able to take on board up to 1000 people, up to 75 units of various military equipment and 6 landing and landing equipment.

It is worth noting that the landing capabilities of the "Mistral" were more modest. For example, a ship could take on board no more than 900 paratroopers (when switching to a short range) and up to 4 amphibious landing craft placed in a special docking chamber. The increase in the width of the ship positively affected the size of the internal and flight decks. So experts evaluated the capabilities of Mistral at 60 transported military vehicles, and the maximum size of the air group on board was estimated at 16 helicopters. At the new Russian UDC, the number of helicopters is likely to be increased to 20 units.

The traditional question that arose during the purchase of the Mistral and in the discussion of the projects of Russian ships of a similar class: why do the Russian fleet have such ships? There are at least two answers to it.

Firstly, this is the appearance of the possibility of over-the-air landing by the fleet when the UDC is located at a very great distance from the coast, beyond the reach of most weapons, and troops are brought ashore by helicopters and amphibious assault forces. There is no need to land equipment and landing directly on the shore, as Soviet and Russian landing ships do. The second important point is the possibility of projecting forces in various theaters of war, as well as the organization of a supply chain in the region. The military operations in Syria have clearly demonstrated how important it is to solve these problems.

Author: Yuferev Sergey

"Contract of the Century" 2.0. Is there a chance for the MiG-35 in India?

Vladislav Perminov

"Contract of the Century" 2.0. Is there a chance for the MiG-35 in India?

Translated by google

May 26, 2020

Started for health

The Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft Competition (MMRCA) was not in vain (and continues to be called) the "contract of the century", despite the fact that at first it seemed that a modest number of 126 multi-purpose fighters of the 4+ generation were at stake. Everything, as you know, is known in comparison. If the international market for passenger aircraft is estimated at thousands of aircraft, then in the case of combat aircraft, the bill goes rather to tens. The fifth-generation American F-35 stands out separately, but this is a completely different topic for communication: the program initially had many US allies, and the F-35 is now the only fifth-generation mass fighter on the planet. You don’t have to choose.

India has never been the main ally of the United States, relying heavily on military-technical support from Russia and France (although Americans are more and more represented on the Indian arms market every year). Recall that the long-standing basis of the Indian Air Force is the Russian Su-30MKI generation 4+ fighters. These aircraft were quite modern at the time of the middle or even the end of the 90s, however, in India they understand that it is high time to supplement them with something more advanced.

Six vehicles took part in the first part of the MMRCA: Boeing F / A-18E / F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, MiG-35 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen. Then the Russian car dropped out long before the end of the competition, and in the final battle the European Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon met. Perhaps the old connections affected, but somehow the Indians chose Rafale.

Presumably, the French soon regretted the “victory”: there were so many difficulties and contradictions that in fact made Rafale a kind of anti-advertisement. Ultimately, the number of purchased cars was reduced to 36. On the other hand, since Dassault Rafale can hardly be called commercially successful (as of 2019, just over 170 such machines were built), even these few dozen aircraft for the French are not so small.


A fundamental turning point in the program occurred already in 2018, when the Indian Air Force launched a new tender for the acquisition of 114 multi-role fighters. This project, worth about $ 20 billion, was essentially a reboot of the failed Indian MMRCA program: it is sometimes unofficially called MMRCA 2.0. Earlier, the Indian Air Force issued a preliminary information request (RFI) on 72 pages for foreign suppliers. Potential candidates were the new version of the F-16, Boeing F / A-18E / F, Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen E, as well as, probably, the Russian MiG-35 and Su-35.

"Dark spots" appeared long before the first conclusions were reached. On May 18, Defense Security Monitor announced that India intends to abandon the planned acquisition of 114 combat aircraft in favor of HAL Tejas national combat aircraft. This project is a separate issue. We are talking about a light fighter of either the fourth or third generation with a combat load of 4,000 kilograms (that is, like the early MiGs) and eight suspension points. Perhaps this project is important for the development of the Indian aircraft industry, but it is significant that the plane that made its first flight back in 2001 built a modest series of several dozen aircraft, including 16 prototypes. At the conceptual level, what happened often happens with Asian military projects: the machine managed to become obsolete long before it became truly serial.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Indians decided not to bet on him. Recently, Indian Air Force commander Marshal Aviation Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said that MMRCA 2.0 remains valid. “This project is in the middle weight and belongs to the same class as Rafale, but in this case we will deal with it in the field of Make in India, with an increase in foreign direct investment, with the support of the private sector. I think that in the future this should provide the technologies that are necessary to support the aviation sector. I think that it is important to have a new generation of aircraft in terms of capabilities and technologies so that we can move forward, ”quotes the Indian military blog of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies bmpd.

What can Russia offer

The chances of success for the Su-35, which initially did not even make it into the first MMRCA, are very small. As follows from the words of the Air Force commander, the car does not fit “in class,” and in addition, unlike the same Rafale, the 35th still does not have a radar station with an active phased array antenna (AFAR). And not the fact that he will ever receive it: his full-time radar, recall, is the H035 Irbis with a passive phased antenna array.

The new Russian MiG-35 is much more likely to win. This machine is conceptually close to Dassault Rafale and (ideally) should have a Zhuk-A radar with AFAR. Other features include an integrated and container optical radar stations, relatively small (against the background of the Su-35 and Su-30) radar visibility and a relatively low cost of operation.

All this does not mean that the MiG-35 is “better” than the Su-35S: it just looks more advantageous in this case. Indirectly, interest in the new product from India was demonstrated by the events of 2019. Recall that last year, Indian military pilots made two sorties on the MiG-35 fighter during the MAKS air show in Zhukovsky near Moscow. “Given the economic situation associated with the well-known pandemic, the completely updated MiG-35 has every chance of winning - we offer the most favorable conditions. Moreover, I am sure that if the corruption component of the tender does not intervene again, the MiG-35 will become the fighter that completely closes Indian airspace from all attacks along with the Su-30MKI, ”said Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, not so long ago. .

However, one thing is the advantage over the Su-35, and another - over the new Western aircraft. In this case, the assessment looks somewhat hasty. To begin with, both Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon (American cars aren’t even talking about) are built in dozens or even hundreds of series, and have been used for many years in different countries of the world.

In the case of the MiG-35, everything is different. At the Army-2018 forum, MiG signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense for the supply of only six MiG-35s until 2023. And long before that, the Ministry of Defense made it clear that it relies on Sukhoi fighters, which is generally reasonable from the point of view of unification of the air fleet of the Russian aerospace forces. The MiG did not cause much enthusiasm in other countries. All this will probably scare off Indians who expect to get a more proven device. On the other hand, this fact does not put an end to the commercial potential of MiG.

Author: Ilya Legat

US came up with a way to displace the MiG-35 from the Indian market
Indian Air Force pilots fly MiG-35 fighter jet at MAKS-2019
Battle for Asian skies: Could Russia's MiG-35 win a tender for the Indian Air Force? — RT Op-ed
US to India: Buy American, Not Russian

MiG-35/35D Fulcrum-F: Details

Potential buyers of the new IL-96-400M

Potential buyers of the new IL-96-400M | News - Live | Yandex Zen

Translated by google

29 May 2020

They began to discuss this topic in the German media, they became interested that Russia would soon complete the assembly of an almost domestic aircraft consisting of no more than 10 percent of foreign materials intended for flights with a range of over 6 thousand kilometers.

This will be an improved version of the IL-96-300, developed back in the late 80s, the new wide-body IL-96-400M. The assembly of which started at the beginning of 2020 at the aircraft plant in Voronezh and will be completed by the end of the year, where ground tests will continue and flight will be completed by 2021.

The fuselage with the wing has already been installed, the tail part and the attachment points of aircraft engines are approaching,

of which there will be four on an aircraft engine type PS-90A1 , in the future, when Russia will be born an aircraft engine PD-35, then there will be two of them instead of four PS-90A1.

This aircraft will be 10 meters longer than its predecessor and equipped with domestic electronics. Yes, if you look realistically, it will be difficult for him to compete with Airbus and Boeing, but here for Russia this is a secondary issue.

Now it’s to find markets, and they will obviously be those countries that are on the list of American sanctions and are not able to replenish their fleet.

The airlines of Cuba and Zimbabwe have already stated that they intend to purchase this passenger aircraft, since they use aircraft of 40 years ago. North Korea and Iran joined these countries. And for Russian airlines it will also be necessary.

Two B-1B Lancers train with 16 Japanese fighter jets over Sea of Japan


Two B-1B Lancers train with 16 Japanese fighter jets over Sea of Japan - Pacific - Stripes


Published: May 28, 2020

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A pair of U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers flew alongside 16 Japanese fighter jets during a mission Tuesday over the Sea of Japan, an Air Force statement said.

The bombers — deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam from the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, 7th Bomb Wing, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas — trained with eight Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 Eagles and eight F-2 Viper Zeros before returning to Andersen, the statement said.

“The U.S. steadfast commitment remains unchanged and integration missions are a way for the U.S. to demonstrate that commitment,” squadron commander Lt. Col. Ryan Stallsworth said in the statement.

Four B-1Bs from Dyess arrived in Guam on May 1 with approximately 200 airmen to assist Pacific Air Forces’ training and deterrence missions, the statement said. The supersonic B-1s can carry air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles along with 2,000-pound bombs.

The missions with Japan make the air forces better at combining their firepower over vast distances, Stallsworth said.

The Air Force flights in the Western Pacific are part of a visible, stepped-up campaign to signal its reach and unpredictability, according to other recent statements.

Two B-1Bs also flew over the South China Sea on Tuesday. On April 29, two Lancers appeared over the sea during a 32-hour round trip from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. That flight demonstrated the new “dynamic force employment model” aimed at making its global bomber presence less predictable, the Air Force said at the time.

On April 22, B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth flew alongside six Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th Fighter Wing, seven Japanese F-2s and eight Japanese F-15s over Draughon Range near Misawa Air Base in northeastern Japan, Tuesday’s Air Force statement said.

On Feb. 3 two B-52 Stratofortress bombers from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., trained with Japanese forces near Misawa Air Base, Japan. That training involved 13 Japanese F-2s, four F-4 Phantoms and 28 F-15s along with six Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from Misawa’s 35th Fighter Wing, according to the statement.
Twitter: @SethRobson1

File photo - Japan Air-Self Defense Force

B-1B Bomber Brandishes A Belly Full Of Stealth Cruise Missiles While Deployed To Guam
Mitsubishi F-15J: Details

Saturday, 30 May 2020

A400M wins certification for automatic low-level flight


A400M wins certification for automatic low-level flight | News | Flight Global

By Greg Waldron

28 May 2020

The Airbus Defence & Space A400M tactical airlifter has received certification for its automatic low flight capability.

A test campaign took place in the Pyrenees mountains and central France during April, says Airbus. The work involved operations down to 500ft, as well as transitions from low-level flight to other operations, such as aerial delivery.

The certification covers operations under visual meteorological conditions, where the crew has visibility. A second phase under instrument meteorological conditions, without visibility, is expected to be certified in the second quarter of 2021, Airbus says.

“Inherent to the fighter aircraft world, and as a unique capability for a military transport aircraft, automatic low-level flight improves the A400M’s terrain masking and survivability, making the aircraft less detectable in hostile areas and less susceptible to threats when cruising towards key military operations like aerial delivery, air-to-air refuelling, logistic or other specific special operations,” the company says.

Cirium fleets data indicates that there are 93 A400Ms in service and 84 on order. Major operators include France, Germany and the UK.

China's new H-20 bomber raises US fears

China's new H-20 bomber raises US fears - Asia Times


MAY 29, 2020

Military planners will be keeping a close watch on the scheduled Zhuhai Airshow in November — depending on how things go with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Why? It won’t be because they like airshows and the entertainment they offer. No, not quite.

Rather, it’s been rumoured that it is there that China will unveil its mysterious new Xian H-20 stealth bomber, an emerging platform expected to massively extend China’s attack range and present a rival to the US B-2 and emerging B-21.

“The Zhuhai Airshow is expected to become a platform to promote China’s image and its success in pandemic control — telling the outside world that the contagion did not have any big impacts on Chinese defence industry enterprises,” a source told Business Insider.

The H-20 could, of course depending upon its technological configuration, bring a new level of threat to the United States. According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, the new supersonic stealth bomber could “double” China’s strike range.

Scary scenario?

If the H-20 can extend beyond the first island chain, as the New Zealand report maintains, then it can not only hold the Philippines, Japan and areas of the South China Sea at risk, but also threaten Hawaii, Australia and even parts of the continental US, according to a report by Kris Osborn of The National Interest.

Interestingly, although much is still not known about the platform, its existence was cited in the Pentagon’s 2018 and 2019 annual “China Military Power Report.”  

The 2019 report specifies that the new H-20 will likely have a range of “at least 8,500 km” and “employ both conventional and nuclear weaponry.” 

The report cites 2016 public comments from People’s Liberation Army Air Force Commander General Ma Xiaotian announcing the development of the H-20, and saying the weapon could emerge some time in the next decades, National Interest reported.

Well, sure enough, the next decade is here and early renderings appear to parallel some of Xiaotian’s comments about Chinese intentions for the bomber. According to the Pentagon’s China report, the H-20 will “employ 5th generation technologies.”

This claim may remain to be seen to some extent, yet the Chinese have already engineered several potentially fifth-generation aircraft with the J-20 and J-31. It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe they have done it on the H-20.

It does appear to be stealthy; it looks like it has an embedded engine, blended wing body, absence of vertical structures and engine air ducts woven into the frame under the fuselage, National Interest reported.

A reported range of 8,500 kilometers appears slightly less than a B-2 bomber’s range of more than 6,700 miles, Pentagon reports have raised concerns that the Chinese may also be developing a refuelable bomber.

Of even greater concern, is that such a refueler could “expand long-range offensive bomber capability beyond the second island chain.”

A refueler could also substantially change the equation and enable it to rival the mission scope of a B-2 which, as many know, successfully completed forty-four-hour missions from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to Diego Garcia during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“The Beijing leadership is still carefully considering whether its commission will affect regional balance, especially as regional tensions have been escalating over the Covid-19 pandemic,” another source told Business Insider.

“Like intercontinental ballistic missiles, all strategic bombers can be used for delivering nuclear weapons … if China claimed it had pursued a national defence policy which is purely defensive in nature, why would it need such an offensive weapon?”

Tensions in the region have worsened in the past month with a war of words between Beijing and Washington over the pandemic, and both sides increasing naval patrols of the Taiwan Strait and South and East China seas.

The H-20 will be equipped with nuclear and conventional missiles with a maximum take-off weight of at least 200 tons and a payload of up to 45 tons. It could also potentially unleash four powerful hypersonic stealth cruise missiles, each capable of destroying major targets.

Some Chinese publications also argue that the H-20 will do double-duty as a networked reconnaissance and command & control platform.

Theoretically, an H-20 could rove ahead, spying the position of opposing sea-based assets using a low-probability-of-intercept AESA radar, and fuse that information to a firing platform hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The H-20 could also be used for electronic warfare or to deploy specialized directed energy.

However, like China’s first active stealth fighter jet, the J-20, engine development of the H-20 bomber has fallen behind schedule, according to sources.

China’s long-range Xian H-20 stealth bomber could make its debut this year

F-35 costs falling, Pentagon estimates indicate

F-35C - SBGrad (flickr)

F-35 costs falling, Pentagon estimates indicate -

By Ed Adamczyk

May 29 (UPI) -- Acquisition of F-35 fighter planes will be less expensive, with development and procurement costs down 7.1 percent, a Defense Department assessment indicates.

The Select Acquisition Report, circulating on Friday but not yet released by the Pentagon, estimates that developing and maintaining the fleet of the planes, built by Lockheed Martin, will cost $1.182 trillion over the planes' expected 66-year useful lifespan.

It is a 7.8 percent increase from last year's cost estimate of the Defense Department's costliest program.The assessment also projects that 809 F-35s will be built for the U.S. military and its allies, compared to 764 projected in 2019.

The Pentagon also projects largely flat budgets,with minimal increases, through 2025, and 2,456 F-35s by 2025. The assessment was prepared prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which has slowed production of the plane.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft, and currently regarded as the world's superior fighter plane. It offers strike missions, electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in three variants.

The U.S. Marines, Navy and Air Force each have a variant, and 13 international partners either have or have ordered versions for their own militaries. The United States intends to purchase 94 F-35s in Fiscal Year 2022, a reduction by nine from its original plan, 94 more in each of 2023 and 2024, and 96 in 2025.

The plane has had a series of costly problems which have hampered its use and prompted $1.4 billion in retrofitting of equipment, but the Defense Department assessment notes that Lockheed Martin's on-time delivery issues have improved, in addition to a reduction of design and software flaws.

Additionally, the per-plane costs are declining. It notes that the "unit flyaway cost" [the complete plane minus the engine] of the Air Force version of the plane fell by $12.1 million to $57.4 million.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in December, requires the Department of Defense to seek compensation from contractors for "costs related to the failure to deliver ready-for-issue spare parts" and better-identified sustainment cost data.

A General Accountability Office report to Congress in May said "the F-35 program produced more aircraft and negotiated lower prices in 2019."

"However, the program is not meeting standards aimed at ensuring consistent,high-quality products, and fielded aircraft do not meet reliability goals," the report said. "The cost to modernize aircraft systems went up about $1.5 billion [or 14 percent]since the program's May 2019 annual report to Congress."