The Air Force’s 100th F-35 Lightning II landed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, joining the service’s ever-growing fleet of the aircraft.
Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, the 56th Fighter Wing commander at Luke, stated: “This marks a milestone and shows the fact that the F-35 program has continued to grow, progress, and support initial operational capability.”
“It is also a ‘scare factor’ for the enemies that we can produce such an incredible platform at such a high production rate, and that it’s getting out in the field in much larger numbers,” added Leonard.
The milestone occurs less than a month after the Air Force announced that the plane was operationally ready. The Air Force plans to purchase 1,763 of the F-35As. The Navy and Marines are each buying variations of the plane.
Military leaders have indicated that they are not willing to reduce that number, either. The F-22 Raptor program was canceled, leaving the Air Force with only 187 operational aircraft. Planners say that number is not nearly enough to meet current threats.
The 100 F-35s are all stationed at either Luke AFB or Hill AFB in Utah. The rest will join them as Lockheed Martin produces them. In total, across all military services and countries, there are 175 F-35s operational according to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office. “This is a good milestone and this program is on track and keeps delivering capability to the warfighter,” told DellaVedova to the Air Force Times about the delivery of the 100th F-35.
The Pentagon is expecting 100 more of the aircraft in 2018. By 2020, they hope to be at full production – 17 F-35s per month. Each plane costs $100 million to produce. With the efficiency in manufacturing and the increased quantities, Lockheed expects that number to drop to $80 million.
Now that the plane has reached IOC, commanders may request the plane for their theater. The Air Force does not expect that to happen in the near future.
The F-35 will be participating in Red Flag training at Nellis AFB next year in Nevada.