Lockheed Martin announced on 3 January, that its 2021 deliveries surpassed 140 aircraft. A total of 142 aircraft were received by various customers around the world. Although the US Democratic Party voiced its dissatisfaction with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, Lockheed Martin continues to receive orders and the rate of manufacture is steadily increasing.
“In the last year, F-35s were part of four base and ship activations and participated in more than 60 deployments and detachments, including the first U.S. Navy F-35C deployment aboard the USS Carl Vinson. During the first deployment of the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 2021, F-35Bs from the U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Air Force flew nearly 1,300 sorties, more than 2,200 hours and conducted 44 combat missions.”Lockheed Martin
Bridget Lauderdale, the company’s head of the F-35 program, explained last summer that Lockheed Martin planned to deliver 139 aircraft by the end of 2021, an increase of 19 compared to the previous year. However, this was surpassed due to the “efforts and dedication” of its suppliers and workforce “combined with the efficiencies of digital engineering” according to Lauderdale.
Brett Ashworth, a Lockheed spokesman, noted that the company plans to manufacture up to 153 aircraft in 2022. The rise in the number of manufactured aircraft is something that Lockheed pursues as the costs of manufacture drop significantly with each produced F-35. Despite COVID-19 hitting supply chains and initial backlog in production, the Fort Worth facility continues to roll out new aircraft at a steady pace. It is predicted that by 2025 Lockheed Martin will produce its 1,000th F-35.
The company released an info graphic outlining some of 2021s milestones including operations and new customers but unsurprisingly no mention of some of the year’s less positive news. Such as South Korea recent grounding of their F-35As following an incident where an aircraft had to make a belly landing. Or that in December a Japanese Air Self Defense Force F-35A made an emergency landing at Hakodate Airport due to abnormalities in the computer systems of the aircraft.
The F-35 remains one of the world’s most advanced multirole jet fighters and may repeat the commercial success of the F-16, an aircraft that is still being developed and manufactured for new clients. In recent days it has been announced that a new variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is being developed for an unnamed customer.