|Four F-35 Lighting II aircraft fly over Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The F-35 fleet recently surpassed 50,000 flight hours. Photo: Lockheed Martin
[Avionics Today 02-11-2016] F-35 Lightning II aircraft operating at 12 locations worldwide surpassed the 50,000 flight hour mark this month. An F-35B aircraft, BF-1, achieved the first flight hour on June 1, 2008. The 25,000 flight hour milestone occurred in December 2014, six years and six months later. As a sign of program growth and maturity, the second 25,000 flight hours were reached only one year and two months later.
"The F-35 program continues to grow and accelerate as we complete additional flight testing and increase deliveries to our U.S. and partner warfighters," said F-35 Joint Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan. "The next 50,000 hours will be achieved much quicker as we double the size of the F-35 fleet worldwide in the next three years alone."
More than one third of the program's flight hours were flown in 2015. Among the three variants, approximately 26,000 hours were flown by the F-35A, 18,000 hours by the F-35B and 6,000 by the F-35C.
Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries. Following the U.S. Marine Corps' July 2015 combat-ready Initial Operational Capability (IOC) declaration, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy intend to attain service IOC this summer and in 2018, respectively.