Lockheed ‘meets goal of delivering 45 F-35 jets in 2015’

Lockheed ‘meets goal of delivering 45 F-35 jets in 2015’

Lockheed ‘meets goal of delivering 45 F-35 jets in 2015’

An F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes off on a training sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in this March 6, 2012 file photo. REUTERS photo

Lockheed Martin Corp met its goal of delivering 45 F-35 fighter jets to the U.S. government and key allies in 2015, a 25 percent increase from 2014 that brought the number of jets delivered to 154, the Pentagon said on Dec. 21.

Lockheed is on track to receive most associated performance fees, and marked a milestone for the $391 billion F-35 project, the Pentagon’s largest arms program, as it prepared for a large production increase in coming years.

“Meeting aircraft production goals is a critical stepping stone in demonstrating the program is ready for the expected significant production ramp up,” said Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, who runs the F-35 program for the Pentagon.

Late on Dec. 21, the Pentagon said Lockheed had won a contract worth $1.17 billion to buy titanium and other materials needed to build an 11th batch of F-35 fighter jets.

Lockheed remained in negotiations with the Pentagon about the next two batches of F-35 jets, a deal which could be worth $15 billion. The two sides had hoped to reach agreement before year end, but have pushed the date to the first quarter, said sources familiar with the discussions.

Lockheed is developing and building three models of F-35 jets for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as for Britain, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Israel, Japan and South Korea.

Key suppliers to Lockheed are Northrop Grumman Corp and BAE Systems Plc. Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, builds the engines for the supersonic jets under a separate agreement with the government.

Pratt is nearing a deal with the F-35 program office for the next two batches of jets, including 60 engines in the ninth set and 100 in the 10th, said Pratt spokesman Matthew Bates.

The jets delivered in 2015 included 26 F-35 A-model jets for the U.S. Air Force, which now has 75 of the planes; two F-35As for Norway; and one F-35A for Italy, the F-35 program office said.

Lockheed also delivered eight F-35 B-model jets, which can land vertically, to the U.S Marine Corps, as well as four F-35 C-model jets, which take off from aircraft carriers, to the Marines, and four F-35C jets to the U.S. Navy.

The latest deliveries capped a busy year for the F-35 program. The U.S. Marine Corps declared an initial squadron of jets ready for combat use. Also during the year, Lockheed delivered the first F-35 jet from Italy’s final assembly and checkout facility to the Italian military.

The Italian plant, managed by Finmeccanica SpA, will build most of the 90 jets expected to be ordered by Japan, and some of the 37 jets to be ordered by the Netherlands.

Earlier this month, the wings, fuselage and tails of the first Japanese-built F-35 were joined together for the first time at a facility in Nagoya, Japan. The assembly of the aircraft, designated AX-5, will be completed in 2017.

Lockheed is building the first four F-35As for Japan in Fort Worth, Texas, while the remaining 38 ordered by Japan will be assembled in Japan.