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Lockheed Delivers 36 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in 2014

Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's largest defense contractor, delivered three dozen F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Defense Department in 2014.

That was its production goal for the year and brings the total number of Joint Strike Fighters delivered to the U.S. and allies to 109 aircraft.

"Meeting U.S. and international aircraft delivery goals is a stepping stone," Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who manages the program for the Pentagon, said in a statement released by the contractor.

Lorraine Martin, general manager of the program at Lockheed, said the achievement "is a clear demonstration of our growing stability and ability to ramp up production," according to the release.

The year, however, wasn't without hiccups for the Pentagon's most expensive weapons acquisition program.

The aircraft missed its international debut in the United Kingdom over the summer after the Pentagon grounded the fleet following a June 23 engine fire that heavily damaged an F-35A aircraft during takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The fire was traced to "excessive rubbing" in the fan section of the F135 engine made by United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney unit.

Officials have previously said they expected the company to have a fix in place by the end of the year, though it's not clear if that has occurred or how much the engine-maker has spent to address the problem -- which it pledged to do.

Issues with the aircraft's helmet, carrier hook and lightning protection "are all past problems," Bogdan has said. Current areas of concern include the engine, the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS (pronounced "Alice") — which determines whether the plane is safe to fly — mission data files and simulators.

While the general warned of the potential harm automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, funding doesn't appear to be an issue for the program. Lawmakers this month approved about $8.8 billion for 38 F-35s -- four more of the fifth-generation stealth fighters than the Pentagon requested.

The overall acquisition effort is estimated to cost a total of $398.6 billion for a total of 2,457 aircraft. That breaks down to an overall per-plane cost of $162 million, including research and development. Sustaining the aircraft over the next half a century is estimated to cost another $1 trillion.

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