Lockheed Martin’s local work is going global. Thursday morning the company officially transferred its first international F-35 fighter jet to the United Kingdom.
The international rollout of the F-35 Lightning II is a major milestone for Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth-based plant.
It’s a celebration that’s been in the works for more than a decade. Officials handed off the log book from Lockheed Martin, to the U.S., then into the hands of United Kingdom leaders.
It’s the Pentagon’s largest, costliest, most complex weapons program ever, and it’s developed and produced at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant.
“In Fort Worth, this is an extraordinary accomplishment. People have worked hard to produce this aircraft,” said Bob Stevens, Lockheed Martin’s chairman and chief executive officer.
The fighter jet will be tested and eventually used by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. It’s their first stealth fighter, known for its’ speed and agility. It also boasts vertical take off and landing ability.
“We’ve had many challenges. None have beat us,” said U.K. Group Capt. Harvey Smyth.
The program’s suffered a series setbacks over the years. Prototype planes have been forced to make emergency landings and have faced skyrocketing production costs.
“We didn’t fail to appreciate the complexity. We’ve overcome challenges, and we’re facing challenges. We have a team of fully dedicated people, who have done everything necessary to ensure success,” said Stevens.
Defense leaders said there’s more work to be done in development, but believe the jets will be the future for armed forces around the world.
Right now, there are 30 of the F-35 jets used for testing and training across the country. There are eight flying in Fort Worth for flight checks. It will be up to the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marines when the jets will be deployed for operation.