Lockheed Martin Delivers 500th F-35 Lightning II Aircraft

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The F-35s during the Elephant Walk (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Lockheed Martin achieves a new milestone by delivered the 500th F-35 Lightning II Aircraft, with the fleet also surpassing the 250,000 flight hour mark.

The 500th production aircraft is a U.S. Air Force F-35A, to be delivered to the Burlington Air National Guard Base in Vermont.

The 500 F-35s include 354 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants, 108 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants for the U.S. Marine Corps and 38 F-35C carrier variants for the Navy and international customers.

The 250,000 flight hours include developmental test jets and training, operational, the U.S. and international F-35s.

“These milestones are a testament to the talent and dedication of the joint government, military, and industry teams,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president, and general manager of the F-35 program. “The F-35 is delivering an unprecedented fifth-generation combat capability to the warfighter at the cost of a fourth-generation legacy aircraft.”

The F-35 operates from 23 bases worldwide. More than 985 pilots and over 8,890 maintainers are trained. Nine nations use the F-35 from their home soil, eight services have declared initial operating capability and four services have employed F-35s in combat operations.

Though the program is hitting its stride it still suffers from issues. In January, the Department of Defense’s Office of the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation released a report to Congress stating that the F-35 has 873 deficiencies.

“Although the program is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number of deficiencies,” said the report.

The F-35’s problems include 13 Category 1 deficiencies. Such problems “may cause death or severe injury; may cause loss or major damage to a weapon system; critically restricts the combat readiness capabilities of the using organization; or results in a production line stoppage,” according to the US Air Force’s (USAF) definition.

The F-35’s deficiencies are compounded by maintenance problems which hobbled the aircraft’s mission capable rate below the DoD’s goal of 80%. The mission-capable rate is the percentage of aircraft capable of performing at least one mission, excluding aircraft in depot maintenance or undergoing major repairs.

F-35 aircraft have been manufactured and produced for customers worldwide, including the US military, the UK and Australia. The jet is currently being operated by nine nations while eight services have declared Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for their aircraft.

The first F-35A aircraft conducted its maiden flight in December 2006. The original version of the aircraft was enhanced and flew its first flight in November 2009. The multi-role, supersonic, stealthy fighter aircraft can perform air defense, ground attack and reconnaissance missions.

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