The Pentagon’s budget proposal unveiled this week trimmed some purchases of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets over the next five years. But don’t worry: the anticipated rampup of F-35 production in Fort Worth is still on track.
That was the word from Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the military’s chief of the F-35 program, when he met with reporters on Wednesday.
According to reports from Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, Bogdan said that foreign orders for the next-generation aircraft will make up for any reduction in Air Force orders. He projected domestic and international sales of 873 jets by 2021, with production reach a peak of 160 to 170 jets a year by the middle of the next decade.
“The program right now is accelerating,” said Bogdan, as quoted in the Journal.
Lockheed’s mile-long Fort Worth plant is in the midst of a $1.2 billion reconfiguration to accommodate the added activity. During a conference call with Wall Street last month, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson said the company expects to build 53 F-35s this year, up from 45 last year, then 59 or 60 in 2017 and as many as 100 in 2018.
The rampup will bring additional jobs to Fort Worth. The company expects to add 1,000 assembly line jobs as it increases production. Lockheed employs about 13,000 people in Fort Worth, with 8,800 assigned to the F-35 program.