F-35 reaches new delivery, flight hour milestones

Lockheed Martin has announced that it – along with the F-35 Joint Program Office – has delivered its 500th F-35 Lightning II multirole stealth fighter, just after the fleet surpassed 250,000 flight hours.

As of March 3, 2020, the company has delivered 354 F-35As – the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant – 108 examples of the F-35B short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) version and 38 F-35Cs, carrier variants (CV), of the Lightning family.

The company added that 353 aircraft had been delivered across the USAF, USMC and US Navy, a further 92 had been delivered to international partners and 55 aircraft have been delivered through Foreign Military Sales (FMS).

500th F-35 [Lockheed Martin]
The 500th F-35 Lightning II - serial 18-5343 (c/n AF-234) - takes flight from Lockheed Martin's factory in Fort Worth, Texas. Lockheed Martin

The 500th delivery was of an F-35A – serial 18-5343 (c/n AF-234) – to Burlington Air National Guard Base (ANGB), where it will be operated by the Vermont ANG’s 134th Fighter Squadron, also known as ‘The Green Mountain Boys'. The squadron formerly operated Lockheed Martin’s F-16C/D (Block 30) Fighting Falcons, with the last of those aircraft departing the base in April 2019 in preparation for the first F-35A, which arrived last September.

Along with delivering its 500th example, Lockheed Martin also announced that the international fleet of F-35s had surpassed 250,000 flight hours. This includes aircraft operated by the US and international militaries, developmental test platforms and training jets.

F-35A [USAF/SA Christopher Quail] #1
A USAF F-35A Lightning II - assigned to the 308th Fighter Squadron 'Emerald Knights' at Luke AFB, Arizona - sits on the flight line at Dover AFB, Delaware, in February. USAF/SA Christopher Quail

Greg Ulmer, vice president and general manager of the F-35 programme at Lockheed Martin, said: “These milestones are a testament to the talent and dedication of the joint government, military and industry teams. The F-35 is delivering an unprecedented [fifth-generation] combat capability to the warfighter at the cost of a [fourth-generation] legacy aircraft.”

Currently, the F-35 is being operated at 23 bases worldwide and the programme has trained more than 985 pilots, along with over 8,890 maintainers. The air arms of Australia, Italy, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, the UK and the US are operating the type from home soil, all of which have declared initial operational capability – except Australia. The aircraft has also been selected by Belgium, Denmark, Poland and Singapore.