Lockheed Martin has delivered the 500th F-35 fighter, with the fleet also surpassing the 250,000 flight hour mark.
The 500th example delivered is an F-35A that will serve with the Vermont Air National Guard, says Lockheed. An image of the jet shows it bears the registration number AF5343.
Of the 500 aircraft delivered so far, 354 are F-35As, 108 are F-35Bs with short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) capability, and 38 are F-35Cs for US Navy carrier operations.
The 250,000hr mark includes aircraft used by the USA and international customers for testing, training, and operations.
“These milestones are a testament to the talent and dedication of the joint government, military and industry teams,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin, Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 programme.
“The F-35 is delivering an unprecedented 5th Generation combat capability to the warfighter at the cost of a 4th Generation legacy aircraft.”
Though the programme is hitting its stride it still suffers from issues. In January, the Department of Defense’s Office of the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation released a report to congress stating that the F-35 has 873 deficiencies.
“Although the programme is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number of deficiencies,” said the report.
The F-35’s problems include 13 Category 1 deficiencies. Such problems “may cause death or severe injury; may cause loss or major damage to a weapon system; critically restricts the combat readiness capabilities of the using organisation; or results in a production line stoppage,” according to the US Air Force’s (USAF) definition.
The F-35’s deficiencies are compounded by maintenance problems which hobbled the aircraft’s mission capable rate below the DoD’s goal of 80%. The mission capable rate is the percentage of aircraft capable of performing at least one mission, excluding aircraft in depot maintenance or undergoing major repairs.