DUBAI Pratt & Whitney, which builds the engine for Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-35 fighter jet, said it was seeing strong interest in the radar-evading warplane, but it would likely be several years before exports to the Gulf region were approved.
Carrol Chandler, a retired Air Force general who now serves as vice president of business development for Pratt, said the U.S. government would evaluate any requests from Gulf countries to buy the F-35, and then decide on a case-by-case basis whether to allow exports of the new fighter jet.
Lockheed is building three models of the new fighter for the U.S. military and eight countries that helped fund its development: Britain, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands.
Pratt, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), builds the F135 engine that powers the jet.
Israel and Japan have also placed orders for the new jets, and South Korea is likely to follow suit later this year, according to sources familiar with the process.
Chandler said Pratt stood ready to work with Lockheed and possible buyers if they decided to pursue F-35 purchases, and they were approved by the U.S. government.
"There's a number of steps there to get from A to B," he said. "It would take several years before we'd release the aircraft to the region. I can't put a number of years on that. But it's certainly not months."
Tyler Evans, vice president of international programs and business development for Pratt, said the company was ready to deal with growing production levels of the F135 engine that powers the jet.
He said the company had opened a second engine line in West Palm Beach, Florida for the jet, where workers were expected to finish work on a second F135 engine before the end of the year.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa. Editing by Jane Merriman)