Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office delivered the 500th F-35 on Tuesday. The watershed moment came as a US Air Force F-35A was delivered to Burlington Air National Guard Base in Vermont, which capped off a month of milestones for the aerospace titan.
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Of the suite of 500 F-35s produced, 354 were F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variants. A further 108 were F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variants, and 38 were F-35C carrier (CV) variants for US and international customers.
February also saw the F-35 program log 250,000 flight hours across all developmental test jets, training, operational, US and international aircraft.
"These milestones are a testament to the talent and dedication of the joint government, military and industry teams," said Greg Ulmer, vice president and general manager of the F-35 program for Lockheed Martin.
Key capabilities of the aircraft include:
- Lower radar cross-section, and very low-observable (VLO) stealth, allowing the aircraft to safely enter defended airspace areas without being detected by radars that fourth-generation and legacy fighters are unable to avoid.
- Higher interoperability, to share battlefield information with both other F-35s and legacy aircraft in real-time.
- A robust communications suite, including AESA radar, electro-optical targeting system, distributed aperture system (DAS), helmet mounted display, and CNI avionics.
"The F-35 is delivering an unprecedented fifth-generation combat capability to the warfight at the cost of a fourth-generation legacy aircraft," Ulmer added.
The Royal Australian Air Force announced its selection of the CTOL F-35A to replace the legacy Hornet fighter fleet in 2009. National participation in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program has, to date, involved over 50 Australian companies.
For the RAAF, the F-35A's combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.
The F-35 now operates from 23 bases worldwide. Eight services have declared initial operating capability, and four services have employed F-35s in combat operations (including the US and the UK).
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the wider Australian Defence Force (ADF).
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.