Lockheed Martin delivered the 500th F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to the Burlington Air National Guard Base in Vermont, a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant of the single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft designed for deployment for ground attack and combat. The aircraft have been in production since 2006, and the aircraft are in service with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the defense forces of numerous allied nations.
The 500 F-35s delivered to-date include 354 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) jets; 108 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) jets; and 38 F-35C carrier (CV) jets, for the U.S. and international operators.
The F-35 operates from 23 bases worldwide, with over 985 pilots trained to operate and over 8,890 maintainers trained to service the aircraft.
Lockheed Martin is the F-35's primary contractor, along with Pratt & Whitney supplying the F-135 engine and BAE Systems providing the electronic warfare systems. There are hundreds of subcontractors as well, and the program is currently producing the fourth-generation design in the eleventh round of production.
The F-35 program has been the subject of cost controversies too, including maintenance and operating costs as well as the individual unit costs. Last fall, the Lockheed and the F-35 program announced a $34-billion agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Defense for a total of 478 Joint Strike Fighter jets through the next three production series, reducing the unit cost below the $80-million target.
Late last year the U.S. Dept. of Defense issued five new contracts to Lockheed, estimated at a total $2.35 billion, the largest of which at $1.93 billion covers recurring costs for ground maintenance and supply-chain management for the current fleet of aircraft in service with the USAF, USN, and USMC.
In February, the F-35 enterprise surpassed 250,000 flight hours.
"These milestones are a testament to the talent and dedication of the joint government, military, and industry teams," stated Lockheed's F-35 program v.p. and general manager Greg Ulmer. "The F-35 is delivering an unprecedented fifth-generation combat capability to the warfighter at the cost of a fourth-generation legacy aircraft."