The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin [LMT] said that it is uncertain when resumption of deliveries and flight acceptance testing of the F-35 fighter will start, as the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) investigation of an F-35B mishap on Dec. 15 continues.

In the Dec. 15 incident, the pilot of a Lockheed Martin-owned F-35B ejected on the runway at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.

The company said on Jan. 3 that “safety is our top priority” and that it is working with the the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), the Defense Contract Management Agency, and NAVAIR “on the resumption of flight operations.”

The F-35 JPO said on Dec. 27 that it has issued a Time Compliance Technical Directive (TCTD) “to recommend restrictions on a small number of aircraft, which have been evaluated to be of higher risk, from flight operations and until procedures can be developed for their return to flight. ”

“The affected aircraft have been identified, and the JPO will work with the military services and international partners to ensure understanding of the risks identified in the TCTD,” the F-35 program said. “This is a preliminary assessment of the risk, and actions are in work that we believe will lead to a refinement of this assessment.   The safety of flight crews is the JPO’s primary concern.”

On Dec. 30, Lockheed Martin said in a statement that the F-35 JPO and the company had finalized a Lot 15-16 contract that may be worth $30 billion to build and deliver up to 398 F-35s domestically and internationally.

“The agreement includes 145 aircraft for Lot 15, 127 for Lot 16, and up to 126 for the Lot 17 contract option, including the first F-35 aircraft for Belgium, Finland and Poland,” Lockheed Martin said. “Lot 15-17 aircraft will be the first to include Technical Refresh-3 (TR-3), the modernized hardware needed to power Block 4 capabilities. TR-3 includes a new integrated core processor with greater computing power, a panoramic cockpit display and an enhanced memory unit.”

Lockheed Martin has delivered 894 F-35s, including 141 last year. The company’s Dec. 30 statement said that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 team “was on track to meet the [2022 delivery] commitment of 148 aircraft as planned; however, due to a temporary pause in flight operations, which is still in effect, necessary acceptance flight tests could not be performed.” The statement did not reference the Dec. 15 mishap, nor the resulting investigation.

The fiscal 2023 omnibus appropriations act adds $1.8 billion for 19 F-35s to the Biden administration’s $8.5 billion request for 61 (Defense Daily, Dec. 20, 2022).

“Through a combination of congressional increases and excess funds transferred from elsewhere within the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] program, the [appropriations conference] agreement provides resources to cover this [19 aircraft] shortfall, allowing for the restoration of all 19 at-risk aircraft, including 11 F-35As, one F-358, and seven F-35C aircraft in fiscal year 2023 and prior years,” according to the omnibus explanatory statement.

Those 19 F-35s were on the Pentagon’s fiscal 2023 unfunded priorities list.