Thirteen is looking like the F-35 fighter’s lucky number. After a dozen years of struggling to match program realities to government expectations, in 2013 prime contractor Lockheed Martin saw everything come together. The flight-testing program is now over 50% complete with no major problems found. The hundredth production fighter rolled out of the plant on December 13, and all three U.S. military services buying the F-35 are now flying their planes at training sites. The unit recurring flyaway cost of the fighter is shrinking steadily, with the most common variant headed for a price-tag no higher than what legacy fighters cost by the end of the decade. More countries are ordering the plane, risk is being retired, and the industry team building the F-35 is even getting along well with its government overseers. So 2013 is shaping up to be the year that the Pentagon’s biggest weapon program took off, and became unstoppable. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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