Fort Worth, Tex. Lockheed Martin celebrated the completion of the 100th F-35 strike fighter during a Dec. 13 ceremony at its Fort Worth, Tex., facility. The aircraft, the first training-coded F-35A, will be delivered to the Air Force in the first quarter of 2014. It will be assigned to the 56th Wing at Luke AFB, Ariz., where USAF pilots and foreign F-35A users will learn to employ the aircraft. Training is set to begin in mid-2015 with 17 aircraft, said Gen. Robin Rand, head of Air Education and Training Command, at the ceremony. Rand said the Air Force will “rethink” the number of simulators used “because the fidelity is so high” allowing them to take on more of the training mission as funding pressure mounts on flying hours. During a briefing with Pentagon reporters the same day, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh praised the company for the progress the program has made in recent years. “We’re at a point in the F-35 program right now where production rates are going up. Production costs are coming down. I am confident the company knows what it costs to build an airplane now and our program office is fully confident in that,” said Welsh. “Since 2011, the program has met milestones consistently. Now, the 100th airplane coming off the production line is not a minor thing.” (Welsh transcript)
The Pentagon awarded a $2.02 billion contract for Lot 17 of F-35 engines to contractor Pratt & Whitney on June 5. Work on the F135 engine is expected to be completed by December 2025.