The Pentagon’s F-35 fighter has completed its development program and begun deploying overseas. About 300 have been delivered, and that number will double by the end of 2020. The U.S. military plans to buy 2,443 of the stealthy aircraft in three distinct variants tailored to the needs of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
To date, public discussion of F-35 has focused mainly on what the fighter can do for U.S. warfighters, and at what cost. But there is another dimension to the F-35 story, and that is the positive impact the plane will have on America’s trade balance as overseas friends and allies acquire well over a thousand of the fighters, mainly to replace aging F-16s bought during the Cold War.
The F-35 program from its inception has had eight partner countries that helped pay for its development and now are poised to purchase over 600 of the planes. But that is just the beginning of the program’s trade impact. An additional 800 planes are expected to be bought by other countries through the Foreign Military Sales program. That process has already begun, with Israel, Japan and South Korea signing on before development was even completed.
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