The F-35 program is the most expensive military weapons system in history and has, hence, had its fair share of critics. Since the beginning, people have argued that the plane has many design flaws that have led to heavy additional costs and significant delays in the development process. Many have blamed the procurement process in which Lockheed was allowed to design, test, and produce the aircraft all at once, instead of first identifying the defects before starting production. In 2016, even President Trump took to Twitter to publicly announce his reservations regarding the program's "mounting costs." However, despite all the obstacles, Lockheed Martin's ( LMT ) F-35 has emerged victorious, as is evidenced by this year's performance.
The aircraft is a fifth-generation fighter, and the only jet among its competition to be stealth ready. The jet's radar absorbing skin and configuration makes it invisible to even the most advanced radar. Furthermore, the aircraft is equipped to take on opponents in the information age. One of its most important attributes is its ability to collect, process, and disseminate information with assets across the battlefield in real time.
Additionally, it has the capability to perform the tasks of multiple legacy carriers combined. For example, it is equipped to provide close air support, vertical take-off and landing, engage in electronic warfare, surface-to-air missile suppression, and much more. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the program is the most important revenue generator for Lockheed at the moment, and in the future.
In the year, the program managed to meet its target of producing 66 aircraft for the Pentagon and its allies, despite production problems that stalled manufacturing for an entire month.
In the months of September and October, the U.S. DoD was forced to halt shipments for F-35s for 30 days after a production error that enabled corrosion to form around the fasteners attaching body panels to the airframe. However, despite this, the company managed to deliver about 40% more aircraft year-over-year. This goes to show the company's resilience in upping production in light of heavier demand, while showing critics that it is more determined to make ends meet.
Many governments are looking to replace older jets for newer ones as the life cycle of their fleets approach their end over the next decade. The company is expected to benefit greatly in this respect. At the moment, the program accounts for roughly 25% of Lockheed's total revenue. We can expect this number to cross more than 50% over the next few years.
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