The tri-service F-35 fighter has completed development and begun deploying overseas. At least 11 foreign countries will buy it, and if it turns out anything like the F-16 it is replacing, the number of foreign buyers could eventually be twice that number. Which raises the interesting question of how big a contribution F-35 might eventually make to the U.S. trade balance. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin figures it will sell around 1,500 of the fighters overseas, which at today’s prices would be worth about $150 billion. But then there’s life-cycle support, software upgrades, airframe modifications, attrition replacements, new demand stimulated by wars, etc. In then-year dollars, the export income from F-35 across half a century of service could ultimately approach a trillion dollars. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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