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Lockheed Martin delivers 1st production F-35 to USAF


The F-35 Lightning II jet known as AF-7 arrives at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on Friday to begin its flight testing programme. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS (BNS): The US Air Force (USAF) has accepted into its fleet the first of a planned 1,763 production-model Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters.

"This first aircraft is the beginning of the modernisation of US Air Force, Marine and Naval Air power and for our coalition partners around the world," Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager, was quoted as saying in the company news release.

The F-35, known as ‘AF-7’, flew to Edwards Air Force Base, California the following day, to complete an airframe-specific flight test programme.

According to Lockheed Martin, the F-35 development fleet has now completed over 865 flights since testing began in late 2006, with eight more production aircraft currently being prepared for delivery.

Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the US Air Force, the F/A-18 for the US Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-B Harrier for the US Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least nine other countries.

Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

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