Lockheed Martin classified aircraft programme goes over budget

Lockheed Martin has recorded a $225 million quarterly loss in its aeronautics division after performance issues in a classified programme.

The overall quarterly loss in the aeronautics division was put down to review of a classified programme that determined that the estimated total costs to complete the programme were more than the contract price.

The defence giant’s aeronautics' net sales increased $163 million, or 3%, compared to the same period in 2020.

The increase was primarily attributable to about $100 million for the F-16 programme due to increased production volume and about $90 million for the F-35 programme due to increased production and sustainment volume.

The defence giant is a likely candidate as the prime contractor for the US Air Force’s new classified sixth generation fighter jet, which is part of the service’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme.

US Air Force image of its sixth generation fighter
US Air Force image of its sixth generation fighter

However, there is no guarantee that the classified programme mentioned in this quarter’s report refers to NGAD. Lockheed Martin also produces the RQ-170 drone for the US Air Force, many details of which still remain classified.

The stealthy flying wing aircraft is fitted with aerial reconnaissance equipment and uses a single engine, speculated to be either a General Electric TF34 turbofan or a Garrett TFE731. Introduced in 2007, the RQ-170 has been deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, and to South Korea in September 2009.

More on NGAD

The general consensus is one of the three big aerospace defence contractors, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin has built a prototype for NGAD. And Lockheed Martin is the only one of those companies currently manufacturing a stealth fighter. And the company also produced the F-22, which NGAD will ultimately replace.

The stealth fighter, according to General Charles Q Brown Jr, USAF chief of staff, will be multirole like Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

Brown said the NGAD fighter will have increased range and weapons load compared to the F-22, which will allow it to operate at the great distances required in the Indo-Pacific region.

These details match the concept art that was recently published in a USAF biennial report for acquisition (seen at the top of this article) which suggested a larger blended wing airframe compared to the F-22, which would give more room internally for a larger weapons bay and fuel tank.

www.lockheedmartin.com

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