F-35 program on the right track

F-35 program on the right track

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Lockheed-Martin and the Pentagon’s F-35 Program Office say they’ve finished delivering jets for 2015, increasing their yield from last year by 25 percent.

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the F-35 Joint Program Office at the Pentagon, said 45 F-35’s were delivered, which met Lockheed and the program office’s delivery goal for the year and exceeded last year’s deliveries by nine jets.

Hitting those marks represents a turn around of sorts for a program that has been plagued in the past by rising costs, software problems and performance delays. 

“Meeting aircraft production goals is a critical stepping stone in demonstrating the program is ready for the expected significant production ramp up,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer, in a press release.

Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Program general manager, said the 2015 deliveries were “a clear demonstration of our growing maturity and stability.”

The performance boost represents good news for Hill Air Force Base, who accepted their first two jets in September and will continue to count on a steady income of fighters until 2019 to fill three F-35 squadrons.

Hill has received a total five jets so far, with the next one scheduled to arrive in January. The plan is for Hill to continue to accept jets at a rate of one or two each month until it receives a full allotment of 72.

By August 2016, the base hopes to have 15 jets in place and reach what the Air Force calls “initial operational capability,” which means Hill has met the goal to use the jets for a limited set of combat rolls.

On Dec. 11, Maj. Jayson Rickard, a reservist with the 466th Fighter Squadron, flew the 100th F-35 sortie at Hill since the first combat aircraft arrived in September.

Of the 45 jets delivered in 2015, the lion’s share have gone to the Air Force, which has received 26 F-35As. The Marine Corps received eight F-35Bs and the Marines and the Navy each accepted four F-35Cs, which can take off and land vertically from aircraft carriers. Foreign Air Force’s in Norway and Italy received two and one jet, respectively. 

DellaVedova said 154 operational F-35s have been delivered to the Department of Defense and partner nations since the program’s inception. The fleet has more than 45,000 flight hours. The multirole fighter will eventually replace the Air Force’s entire fleet of F-16s and A-10s.

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