The Navy on Friday awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] a $1.8 billion contract to continue design maturation and development of F-35 Block 4 capabilities.

This award specifically is in support of the F-35 Phase 2.3 Pre-Modernization for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and non-Defense Department participants.

Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft from Naval Air Station Lemoore fly in formation over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range after completing a training mission (U.S. Navy Photo)

Block 4 consists of modernization follow-on upgrade developments for the F-35, particularly software upgrades. According to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Block 4 upgrades are expected to cost $10.5 billion total (Defense Daily, April 29).

The GAO report warned starting these upgrades in 2019 without a true business case in place with independent estimates for lifecycle cost and schedule forecast may repeat issues from the baseline aircraft in cost and schedule growth.

Work for this contract will occur in Fort Worth, Texas and is expected to be finished by August 2026. In all, $99 million in FY 2019 funds are obligated at award time, but none of it will expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The contract is divided into purchases for the Air Force at $732 million, or 40.5 percent, Navy at $371 million, or 20.5 percent, Marine Corps at $346 million, or 19 percent, and non-DoD participants at $359 million, or 20 percent.

Last month, the House Appropriations Committee’s defense bill agreed to fully fund the Block 4 development requested at $1.5 billion (Defense Daily, May 14).