Lockheed Martin hit the planned F-35 delivery total for the year, rolling out its 66th jet in 2017 earlier this week.

The latest annual delivery total raises overall deliveries of production-series F-35s to 266, including non-US customers, Lockheed says in an 18 December release.

The announcement came as a surprise, following Lockheed’s third quarter earnings call earlier this October.

At the time, Lockheed reported 15 F-35s delivered at the end of September, bringing the total deliveries that year to 44. That put Lockheed behind its original goal of delivering 66 jets by the end of 2017.

Shortly after Lockheed reported its earnings, the Pentagon halted all F-35 deliveries after the US Air Force discovered corrosion issues on an F-35A. A government and industry investigation found Lockheed failed to apply a primer to prevent corrosion in the fastener holes for an aluminium cover plate. The issue did not pose a safety risk to the fleet or affect operations, F-35 Joint Programme Office stated.

The previous quarter saw 14 jets delivered, with 15 in the first quarter, setting a nine-month average of almost three deliveries a month. That meant Lockheed averaged about 5.5 deliveries in October, November and so far this month to meet the annual goal of 66 aircraft.

With 266 jets delivered out of 356 awarded, Lockheed faces a backlog of 90 aircraft.

But the latest delivery wrapped up low-rate initial production lots one through 9, meaning Lockheed will focus on manufacturing the 90 F-35s contracted under LRIP 10 next year. The 90 aircraft goal is part of a production ramp up that will increase to 160 deliveries per year by 2023.

Source: FlightGlobal.com