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The 200th operational F-35, an aircraft for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, departed Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth production facility earlier this month.

Lockheed Martin say in a press release:

“Known as AX-2, the jet joins Luke’s F-35 fleet of 46 jets to train pilots from several F-35 partner countries. The F-35 program continues to grow and accelerate as it now operates in 12 locations worldwide including Israel and Italy.

The program has also logged 75,000 flight hours while training more than 380 pilots and 3,700 maintainers.”

Recently, retired Marine General James Mattis backed the jet after it was recently criticised by President-elect Donald Trump.

Reported by ‘DoD Buzz‘, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Hartford Courant newspaper that Mattis gave a “clear commitment to the continuation of the F-35”.

Blumenthal said later

“I was encouraged by his clear commitment to American air superiority and important role of the F-35 in sustaining and enhancing it.”

The speculation started after a string of tweets posted by President-elect Donald Trump were interpreted by many to signal the end of the jet.

It’s now clear that Trump sought to cut F-35 costs, not cancel the hugely valuable programme which supports more than 151,000 direct and indirect jobs in the US and tens of thousands more around the world.

Marillyn Hewson President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin said she had a “very good conversation” with Trump and that she had “heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35”, according to a statement released by Lockheed Martin.

Trump tweeted earlier in the month:

“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35 I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”

Hewson added later that the conversation was “productive” and that she had “conveyed our commitment to delivering an affordable aircraft to our military and our allies.”

The president-elect later relented, revealing his intentions and confirming what many in the industry had suspected, that this was simply an effort to drive down costs.

“It’s a little bit of a dance. But we’re going to get the cost down.”

At peak, the programme will support 25,000 jobs in the UK over the next few decades and pump £1bn a year into the economy.

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