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Lockheed Martin F-35 production exceeded goals, lowered costs in 2019

The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II supersonic aircraft, which started its operational testing on the amphibious assault ship USS America. According to a new release, Lockheed Martin delivered more F-35 aircraft this year than originally planned. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Lockheed Martin is making good on its commitments to the U.S. military and other customers, delivering more F-35 aircraft than originally planned, according to a release Monday.

The defense and aerospace company delivered its 134th F-35 aircraft of 2019 Monday, exceeding its joint government and industry commitment of 131 for the year. The 134 aircraft delivered in 2019 is a 47% increase over production in 2018, according to Lockheed Martin.

“We have met our annual delivery targets three years in a row and continue to increase production rates, improve efficiencies and reduce costs,” Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, Greg Ulmer, said in a statement.

The jets — the company’s largest source of profit — are manufactured at Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas, assembly plant, which employs more than 14,000 workers.

The 134th aircraft was an F-35B, a variant that specializes in short takeoffs and vertical landings, that was delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps. The program has now produced a total of 490 aircraft and surpassed 240,000 cumulative flight hours, according to Lockheed Martin.

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The defense company says it has managed to lower the cost of an F-35A to $77.9 million, meeting a goal set with the Pentagon to cut costs below $80 million a year early.

Lockheed Martin has been under pressure to increase the program’s efficiency since costs and complications began to raise concern at the start of the decade. The program is expected to cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion over its lifespan.

The company has been hiring thousands of mechanics, technicians and other workers over the last several years as it has ramped up jet production.

In 2019, Lockheed Martin delivered 81 of the fighter jets for the U.S., 30 for international partners and 23 for foreign military customers.

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© 2019 The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.