Now that lawmakers have settled their budget standoff in Washington, the federal government has approved funding for more F-35 fighter jets, indicating that the planned ramp-up of production in west Fort Worth will continue.
Late Tuesday, the Department of Defense announced that Lockheed would get $625 million in funding immediately as part of a $5.3 billion contract still being finalized for the next production lot of F-35s.
That contract, for Lot IX, will cover 55 F-35 jets, including 41 A-model jets for the U.S. Air Force, Norway, Israel and Japan; 12 B-model jets, capable of vertical landings, for the Marines; and two C-models for the Navy.
While the contract is being completed, the $625 million in immediate funds will assure that production can continue through the end of the year, said spokesman Michael Rein.
Lockheed Martin’s plant in Fort Worth, where the F-35 is being built, is in the midst of a $1.2 billion upgrade to prepare for a significant increase in production. Production is expected to triple to more than 100 planes a year by 2017 and reach nearly 200 by the end of the decade.
To handle the increased work, the company expects to add 1,000 workers to the production line over the next couple of years, plus more in other areas. Lockheed Martin employs about 13,000 at the Fort Worth complex, including 8,800 on the F-35 program.