F-35 program ends year on high note, meets production goal for 2014

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program has ended the year on a high note, meeting its principal production goal late last month with the delivery of the final F-35 Lightning II for 2014.

The model of the next-generation Joint Strike Fighter, delivered December 22 to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), was an “F-35C” variant, designed for use from aircraft carriers.

That particular aircraft, known as CF-19, went to the U.S. Marine Corps, making the number of operational F-35s delivered by Lockheed Martin to the United States and its allies in 2014 to 36, for 109 in total.

“Meeting U.S. and International aircraft delivery goals is a stepping stone,” said F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan in a statement on Lockheed Martin’s www.F35.com website. “It’s a global undertaking to build and deliver F-35s. Thousands of men and women produced the 300,000 individual parts from 46 U.S. states and 10 other countries to make these stealth fighters, and they should be proud of their accomplishment.”

As for the inventory breakdown, of the 36 aircraft deliveries in 2014, the majority went to the U.S. Air Force, with 23 F-35As. Two F-35As were supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force; four F-35Bs to the U.S. Marine Corps and seven F-35Cs to the U.S. Navy and Marines, according to the U.S. F-35 Joint Program Office.

Fourteen of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft will be based at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County.

“Delivering the most F-35s in program history is a clear demonstration of our growing stability and ability to ramp up production,” said Lockheed Martin F-35 Program General Manager Lorraine Martin.

The DoD expects the advanced technology of the F-35 to be a cornerstone of the fighters for the U.S. fleet, including the F-22.

F-35s will be called on to provide air support for ground troops, or to attack distant targets.

Over the past two decades, cost overruns, delays and technical complications have made the F-35 program one of the most expensive military weapons systems ever developed, with a final price tag between $400 billion and $1 trillion.

Supporters contend that every new advance in U.S. military arsenal has had problems during development. Advanced stealth fighters as the F-35 provide a superior tactical advantage.

So far, eight American allies are on board with the F-35 program: the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Norway. Each has indicated plans to buy at least 700 F-35s combined, with the UK alone taking 138.

Lockheed Martin representatives believe this level of international participation will keep the entire program reasonably priced, as well as giving the U.S. a distinct lead over Russia and China. Both nations are developing similar fighters.

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