US OKs F-35 Full-Rate Production After 5-Year Delay

The US Department of Defense has approved the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to enter full-rate production after a five-year delay.

A Pentagon announcement said the fifth-generation aircraft successfully achieved the so-called “Milestone C” decision, signifying its maturity and reliability for various missions.

Unlike other military systems, the F-35 reaching Milestone C status is more of a technicality, considering that Lockheed Martin has been producing the combat jet at maximum capacity.

Around 900 F-35s have also been delivered to customers worldwide despite the program being stuck in its initial operational testing and low-rate initial production status.

“This is a major achievement,” Defense Acquisition Under Secretary William LaPlante said. “[It proves that] the F-35 is stable and agile, and that all statutory and regulatory requirements have been appropriately addressed.”

Despite the decision being unlikely to have a major effect on production, it is expected to validate the aircraft’s capabilities for present and future customers.


The F-35 program was originally scheduled to enter full-rate production in 2019.

However, delays in an F-35 digital environment called the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) capable of emulating advanced threats have negatively affected the program.

The multi-role combat aircraft was required to undergo JSE testing prior to moving to the next phase.

When the digital environment was finally built, several technical issues were experienced, further extending the testing delay.

Additionally, the program was severely delayed by pandemic challenges.

“This is a huge accomplishment!” F-35 Joint Program Office director Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt said. “We will always be driven to continuously improve sustainability, interoperability, and lethality so warfighters have the capability needed to fight and win when called to do so.”

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