The worldwide F-35 Lightning II fleet surpassed 50,000 flight hours in February, the F-35 Joint Program Office reported on Wednesday 10 February. The flight hours include operational training and test flights. The latter are needed to solve various issues and validate tactics in the new aircraft.
Of the 50,000 hours, operational jets flew 37,950 hours while System Development and Demonstration (SDD) aircraft flew 12,050 hours. More than one third of the program’s flight hours were flown in 2015 alone, the program offices states . Among the three variants, approximately 26,000 hours were flown by the air force F-35A variant, 18,000 hours by the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B variant and 6,000 by the naval F-35C.
The very first flight hour was achieved on 1 June 2008. The 25,000th flight hour went by in December 2014 and now, fourteen months later, the program celebrates 50,000 hours in the air.
“The F-35 program continues to grow and accelerate as we complete additional flight testing and increase deliveries,” said program executive officer Christopher Bogdan. “ According to Bogdan, the next 50,000 hours will be achieved much quicker as the size of the F-35 fleet worldwide doubles over the next three years.
In total, 173 F-35s are flying from eight eight operating locations in the US. Flight hours were also recorded at the two F-35 production facilities at Cameri, Italy, and Fort Worth, Texas, plus two F-35 maintenance locations at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, and the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah.
Last week, the F-35 celebrated another milestone as the first aircraft crossed the Atlantic Ocean on its way from Italy to the US.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Three US Air Force F-35As and a single Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35A explore the skies near Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (Image © Lockheed Martin)