Dutch F-35 is now under assembly at the Northrop plant.
Northrop Grumman has completed the centre fuselage for the Netherlands' first F-35A Lightning II,
It will then be integrated with the other major sections for the conventional take-off and landing aircraft: its Lockheed-produced forward fuselage, cockpit and wings; and BAE Systems-built rear fuselage.
The Dutch has ordered two F-35 to start with. These test aircraft will be used for training the first cadre of instructors. Norway are planning to buy four test aircraft to do the same. UK has bought three test aircraft and the first UK pilot has already flown the F-35B (even though as it looks right now UK will buy the F-35C conventional carrier version). Outside of the US these are the only F-35 that has actually been bought yet! The rest are just on the "to-be-decided"-list.
Some countries has not even decided which configuration of the F-35 they will buy. UK is choosing between F-35B/C. Canada is planning to buy the CF-35 with drag chute and drogue AAR refueling (there are ongoing discussions in the Canadian government regarding ordering a special version of the F-35, since it will be very costly for the Canadians). The drag chute is for landing on icy runways. Note: Norway might also be interested in this version of the F-35.
One thing that has not yet been decided, or at least not been made public, is the final export configuration of the F-35. There has been rumors about the stealth capability being less effective on the export version and that not all of the jamming capability will exported. Maybe this problem will be automatically solved if the US does not have money enough to finish the development of these capabilities.
Many F-35 customer are now facing problems with the non-existing time overlap between the last day of operations with their existing fleet of aircraft and the introduction of the F-35. E.g. the Norwegian F-16MLU and the Canadian CF-18 will probably be grounded for good before the first flight of the F-35 in their respective Air Forces. Maybe this will result in that some countries need to buy another aircraft. My guess is that the F-15SE and the F-18E/F will find customers among countries that today are on the F-35 interest list.
How effective will the F-35 be? RAND Corporation has done a simulation of F-35 and F-18E/F versus Su-30 for the Australian Air Force with some bad news for the F-35.
The clear implication of the RAND study is that the F-35 is very likely to wind up facing many more “up close and personal” opponents than its proponents suggest, while dealing with beyond-visual-range infrared-guided missiles as an added complication. Unlike the F-22, the F-35 is described as “double inferior” to modern SU-30 family fighters within visual range combat; thrust and wing loading issues are noted, all summed up in one RAND background slide as “can’t [out]turn, can’t [out]climb, can’t [out]run.”
Worst of all is that the price tag of the F-35 keeps going up. In combination with the bad European economy it will of course affect how many aircraft that will be bought.
But, instead of the poor European customers there are other potential markets coming up. President Obama has given go-ahead to Lockheed Martin to offer F-35 to India. In the FX-3 program in Brazil, F-35 will most probably be an contender. Israel is very interested after Saudi Arabia decided to buy Eurofighters and F-15E.
Finally I recommend this documentary about the F-35.