TechU.S. Defense embarks on mass production of F-35s, hitting global high

U.S. Defense embarks on mass production of F‑35s, hitting global high

South Korean F-35 aircraft
South Korean F-35 aircraft
Images source: © Getty Images | SOPA Images
3:42 PM EDT, March 16, 2024
The F-35 aircraft have been in production since 2011, but it was only in 2024 that the U.S. Department of Defense announced the commencement of mass production. What implications does this development carry?
In January 2024, Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35 aircraft, celebrated the production of the thousandth unit. This milestone signifies that the F-35 has become the most-produced combat aircraft globally, though it has formally been considered in limited production until this announcement.
Thus, the shift to Full-Rate Production (FRP) is largely procedural, marking a significant achievement in the F-35's development journey. This transition follows extensive testing and refinement of the production process, with the program originally slated to reach FRP by 2020.
Since its initial production run in 2011, which saw the completion of the first nine units, the F-35’s output has steadily increased. The program has already reached its goal of manufacturing 150-160 units annually, and the move to mass production will not affect this pace.
The F-35 is available in three models. The most widely produced, the F-35A, has been ordered by Poland, among others, and features conventional take-off and landing capabilities. The F-35B, tailored for the Marine Corps, is capable of vertical or short take-offs and landings, appealing to nations without CATOBAR-class aircraft carriers but wishing to deploy the F-35 from aviation ships, such as the British Queen Elizabeth-class or the Japanese Izumo-class.
The F-35C, the third variant, is a naval aircraft designed for CATOBAR-class carriers, boasting larger fuel tanks, wings with folding tips for easier storage, and a reinforced undercarriage for catapult launches and deck landings. Additionally, it features a retractable hook for catching the arresting gear upon landing, ensuring a swift and safe stop.
Related content