Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has met government and industry targets for the year, delivering 66 F-35 Lightening II fighters to the U.S. and foreign customers, the company announced on Monday.
"Meeting our 2017 delivery commitment is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our joint government and industry team to deliver the transformational F-35 air system to the warfighter," Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President and F-35 Program General Manager Jeff Babione said in a press release. "The team continues to overcome program challenges and achieving this milestone gives our customers confidence that the F-35 enterprise can deliver on the increasing production quantities year-over-year."
The 66 F-35 deliveries in 2017 is a 40 percent increase from 2016. Lockheed Martin said it is ready to increase production volume year-over-year to hit full rate production of approximately 160 aircraft in 2023.
So far more than 265 F-35 aircraft have been delivered to U.S. and international customers, and more than 530 pilots and nearly 5,000 maintainers have been trained.
To prepare for an increase in production, Lockheed Martin has hired more than 1,300 employees at its facility at Fort Worth, Texas, since January 2017.
Lockheed said it will have reduced the cost of manufacturing an F-35A to $80 million by 2020. With the incorporation of lessons learned, process efficiencies, production automation and supply chain initiatives the current cost of an F-35A has come down more than 60 percent from the first contract. Production time has also decreased about 20 percent since 2015.