F-35 Production and Training Ramp Up

Le Bourget, France—Lockheed Martin is feeling bullish on the future of the F-35, said Lorraine Martin, the company’s F-35 executive vice president, here on Monday on the first day of the 51st Paris Air Show. The company anticipates the strike fighter will move out of the system development and demonstration phase by mid-2017, and production is set to ramp up “significantly” with great implications for cost and economies of scale, said Martin. After SDD concludes, the company will move on to block upgrade programs beyond the “2B” block that the Marine Corps will have in its F-35Bs when the service reaches its F-35B in-service milestone later this year. As of June, there are 140 F-35s flying daily at nine US bases; about every 10 days, the F-35 program adds another 1,000 hours of flight time to its resume, she said. Some 200 pilots and 2,000 maintainers are now trained, with Luke AFB, Ariz., currently hosting the largest F-35 force. Luke has qualified 42 F-35 pilots so far this year, and by 2017 is slated to have 226 pilots trained from six nations. The ramp-up in aircrew training correlates to the program’s diversifying profile: By 2017, half of all F-35 purchases will be by international partners, said Martin.