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Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter-jet program reaches milestone

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II with the 419th Fighter Wng assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is refueled April 6, 2018.

MICHAEL KI HONG/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By GORDON DICKSON | The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Tribune News Service) | Published: June 12, 2018

Over the years, adjectives such as controversial and expensive have been used to describe Lockheed Martin's F-35 program.

But while those concerns may have merit, the air defense company's Fort Worth plant nonetheless continues to crank out the stealth fighter aircraft at what has become a steady pace.

This week, Lockheed Martin officials announced that they had delivered their 300th aircraft, an F-35A model bought by the Air Force that is headed for Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Lockheed Martin has also made versions of the F-35 for the Navy, Marines and several allied countries including South Korea and Israel.

"The F-35 weapons system is a key enabler of our National Defense Strategy and is providing our war fighters the combat proven, advanced capabilities they need to meet mission requirements," Vice Admiral Mat Winter, program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office, said in an email. "Moving forward, our F-35 team remains committed to driving costs down, quality up and faster delivery time lines across our development, production and ... lines of effort."

Some of the variations of the F-35 include the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing, the F-35B shorrt takeoff and vertical landing and the F-35C aircraft carrier variant.

More than 620 pilots and 5,600 maintainers have been trained on the F-35, according to Lockheed Martin.

Also, more than 140,000 cumulative flight hours have been logged.

"This milestone is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our joint government and industry team as we collaborate to deliver transformational F-35 capabilities to the men and women in uniform,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “We are focused on reducing costs, increasing efficiencies, and ensuring the highest level of quality as we ramp to full rate production and sustainment of the operational fleet.”

Lockheed Martin aims to reduce the cost of an F-35A to $80 million by 2020.

The price of an F-35A has come down more than 60 percent from the first contract, company officials say.

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