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Pentagon says F-35 program on the right track

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) -- Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Program Office say they've finished delivering jets for 2015, increasing their yield from last year by 25 percent.

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the F-35 office at the Pentagon, said 45 F-35s were delivered, which met Lockheed and the program office's delivery goal for the year and exceeded last year's deliveries by nine jets.

"Meeting aircraft production goals is a critical stepping stone in demonstrating the program is ready for the expected significant production ramp up," Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program’s executive officer, said in a press release.

Lorraine Martin, Lockheed's F-35 program general manager, said the 2015 deliveries were "a clear demonstration of our growing maturity and stability."

The performance boost represents good news for Hill Air Force Base, which accepted its first two jets in September and will continue to count on a steady income of fighters until 2019 to fill three F-35 squadrons.

Base spokesman Rich Essary said it has received a total five jets so far, with the next one scheduled to arrive in January. Essary said the plan is for Hill AFB to continue to accept jets at a rate of one or two each month until they receive their full allotment of 72.

By August 2016, the base hopes to have 15 jets in place in order to reach what the Air Force calls "initial operational capability," which means Hill AFB has met the minimum goal to use the jets for normal operations.

On Dec. 11, Maj. Jayson Rickard, a reservist with the 466th Fighter Squadron, flew the 100th F-35 sortie at Hill AFB since the first combat aircraft arrived in September.

Of the 45 jets delivered in 2015, the lion's share has gone to the Air Force, which has received 26 F-35As. The Marine Corps received eight F-35Bs and the Marines and the Navy each accepted four F-35Cs, which can take off and land vertically from aircraft carriers.

DellaVedova said 154 operational F-35s have been delivered to the Department of Defense and partner nations since the program's inception. The fleet has more than 45,000 flight hours. The multirole fighter will eventually replace the Air Force's entire fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs.

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