The final assembly of the 1,000th Lockheed Martin F-35 lightning II fighter jet has begun at the company’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
The occasion was marked by BAE Systems, the manufacturer of F-35’s rear fuselage sections, which announced delivery of the 1,000th fuselage built at its facility in Samlesbury, Lancashire.
“This is a significant moment for everyone involved in the programme and a testament to the highly-skilled workforce we have in the North West of England,” Cliff Robson, Group Managing Director at BAE Systems Air, is quoted as saying in the company’s press release.
The milestone delivery marks a step forward in the aircraft’s manufacturing effort, which saw a steady production ramp-up, coupled with an increase in foreign sales.
Lockheed Martin has been preparing for this milestone for a while. The 1,000th engine for the jet was delivered by Pratt & Whitney in September 2022, although it is unlikely that the exact engine will be used on the 1,000th fuselage.
In 2021 Lockheed Martin estimated that the 1,000th F-35 would be delivered in 2023. However, the program encountered significant problems in that time, including the discovery that Chinese alloys were being used to manufacture the aircraft.
The discovery resulted in an investigation and deliveries of jet being placed on hold for a month. Lockheed Martin did not comment on the effect of this hurdle and how far back it had set the program.
Despite the difficulties, the F-35 is already by far the most numerous fifth-generation fighter jet in the world. Fewer than 200 F-22s were ever built. The number of China’s own J-20 are also estimated at 200, while around 10 of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57s are currently operational.