Lockheed touts F-35 milestones

“The 2011 flight test plan called for the accumulation of 872 flights and 6,622 test points by Dec. 31,” Lockheed said in a statement. “For the year, the [test] program flew 972 flights and tallied 7,823 test points.”

On Wednesday evening, the company touted its delivery to the Marine Corps of the first two models of its variant of the F-35 fighter.

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The service is buying the B model, which is intended to take off and land from Marine Corps amphibious ships. But the B model has been plagued by developmental issues and design problems to the point that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had placed the variant on probation.

The two F-35Bs flew from Fort Worth, Texas, to Floridas' Eglin Air Force in about 90 minutes on Wednesday to join their Marine flight test squadron.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era of advanced capabilities for the U.S. Marine Corps,” Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement.

Critics of the program doubtlessly will soon point out the milestones are behind schedule and came after years of cost overruns and delays.