The Pentagon's tri-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is making progress towards completing its developmental phase and entering operational service with the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps, contractor Lockheed Martin says. The US government watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), agrees that the much delayed and often troubled programme is making headway, in a report released earlier this year.
"The programme met or substantially met most of its key management and development testing objectives for the year," the GAO states in its report, in unusually positive terms. "We also found that the programme made progress in addressing key technical risks, as well as improving software management, manufacturing, and supply processes."
Not even the US Congressional sequestration law has had much of an impact on the $397 billion effort. The USAF still hopes to buy 1,763 jets, while the Department of the Navy (DoN) expects to acquire a total of 680 - of which the USMC will acquire 420 and the USN 260. The exact breakdown of the DoN purchase is in flux, but previously it was expected that 340 short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35Bs and 340 carrier variant F-35Cs would be built.