The tri-service F-35 fighter program is wrapping up 2017 in better shape than it has ever been before. Deliveries to three U.S. military services and overseas allies are up 43% from last year, and expected to continue rising steadily in the years ahead. The program has largely completed developmental testing without any major mishaps, while meeting all of its performance requirements. Eleven countries have signed on to buy the fighter, and six more have signaled interest. The cost of F-35s is falling in each successive production lot, with the price-tag for the most common variant expected to be no more than the cost of a much less capable legacy fighter by 2020. Over 500 pilots have been trained, and the fighter is operating from 14 different bases. Israel has just announced that its fleet of F-35s has reached initial operational capability, and U.S. F-35s have deployed to both Europe and the Western Pacific. It appears the naysayers who questioned the F-35’s price and performance have been wrong on pretty much every issue they raised. Lockheed Martin has a winner on its hands, and America will enjoy “command of the air” for another generation — if not longer. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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