Lockheed officials and F-35 test pilots touted the program’s progress during a media briefing at the air show, where a mock-up of the radar-evading, single-seat aircraft drew a steady stream of interest from industry executives and foreign delegations.
The program has conducted 595 test flights thus far in 2012, versus the 445 test flights planned, and four more jets were delivered to the U.S. government this week, bringing the total number of deliveries to 30.
Lawson said Lockheed should be able to complete production of all 30 planes planned for this year, despite a 10-week strike by 3,650 workers at the Fort Worth plant and two military bases in California and Maryland.
Lockheed is building the new warplane for three U.S. military services and eight international partners -- Britain, Italy, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Israel and Japan have also ordered the plane.
The Pentagon restructured the $396 billion weapons program for a third time this year, postponing production of 179 fighter jets until after 2017, to allow more time for development and testing, and to reduce the number of needed retrofits.
The move added $1 billion to $6 billion in cost to the program, according to various estimates, because it eliminated anticipated economies of scale that were meant to start sharply reducing the cost as production quantities increased.
It also spurred some soul-searching among foreign partners on the program, including Italy, whose own budget pressures have prompted it to cut back its planned orders by one-third.