FORT WORTH, TexasLockheed Martin [LMT] will deliver 36 F-35s by the end of December, meeting its goal for the year, according to a company executive.

Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager for F-35 Lorraine Martin told reporters here Friday that a rare ice storm in north Texas last week delayed deliveries for five days. Martin said the company has delivered 29 F-35s with four needing government certifications and approvals before being delivered and three needing acceptance flights to meet delivery requirements.

Lockheed Martin says it will hit its F-35 deliver goal for 2013 of 36 jets. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin says it will hit its F-35 delivery goal of 36 jets for 2013, even if weather pushes it into the first week of January. Photo: Lockheed Martin

“I will tell you the flight line is packed with airplanes flying, so my issues is not that I don’t have the airplanes to get to 36. It’s weather,” Martin said before a company ceremony for the 100th F-35 off the production line at Lockheed Martin’s factory here.

Martin said even if it takes the first week of January to get those jets out, it will be due to the weather delay and not production. Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Rein said Friday the company pushed out nine F-35s last December, so it shouldn’t be a stretch, he said, to produce seven in one month. Martin also said sequestration-related budget cuts caused production delays “here or there” this year, but she did not specify to what extent.

Martin said Lockheed Martin used to produce F-16s at a much higher rate than it is currently producing F-35s, so hitting the F-35 goal for December “shouldn’t be a problem.” Lockheed Martin produced a maximum of 30 F-16s in one month back in June 1987, according to company spokesman Mark Johnson. Johnson said Monday Lockheed Martin still produces F-16s in a different part of its Fort Worth facility.

“We have plenty of capacity here and we are adding run stations and other things that would be infrastructure needed to build a higher rate,” Martin said.

Lockheed Martin is also flight testing its block 2B software with a capability drop scheduled for Tuesday, Martin said. The company also plans, she said, to flight test the software throughout 2014 in preparation for the Marine Corps’ initial operational capability (IOC) goal of no later than December 2015 for the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B. Block 2B software, which Martin said will be used by all F-35 variants, will be released in 2015.

Martin also said the company is shooting for the first flight test of its block 3I software for early January. Lockheed Martin, she said, has already performed the first 3I drop, flight tested and ground tested the 3I software. The Air Force, she said, will be using the block 3I software as its “go to war” version. Block 3I is pegged to debut in 2016 and flight testing for blocks 3I and 3F in 2015.

Software is a very challenging part of program development, F-35 Program Executive Officer Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said in March. Lockheed Martin invested in facilities, Bogdan said, to improve how it designs, tests and delivers F-35 software increments, going from a rate of one increment every 30 days to ever three days (Defense Daily, March 13).

The F-35, developed by Lockheed Martin with subcontractors BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman [NOC], is the Defense Department’s costliest weapons program at $391 billion, up over 70 percent over a decade (Defense Daily, June 20). It is also one of DoD’s top priorities. The Pentagon plans to buy 2,443 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. United Technologies Corp.’s [UTX] Pratt & Whitney is supplying its F135 engine for the program.

The 100th F-35 rolled off the production line is designated AF-41, meaning it’s the 41st F-35 produced for the Air Force. AF-41 is from the low-rate initial production (LRIP) 5 contract. Martin said she expects to both complete LRIP 8 contract negotiations next year and produce more than 36 aircraft. F-35C ship trials are also expected to commence in 2014, Martin said, pending availability of an aircraft carrier.

In addition to its F-35B IOC goal of no later than December 2015, DoD is aiming for F-35A IOC no later than December 2016 and no later than February 2019 for the F-35C, according to F-35 program office spokesman Joe DellaVedova.