FORT WORTH, Texas. The first Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-35A Lightning II military aircraft has rolled out of the Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, in the presence of Republic of Korea and U.S. government leaders, marking a major F-35 program milestone and, officials say, strengthening national defense and global partnerships.
“This is a major step forward for our F-35 Enterprise and our ROKAF partners as we deliver Korea’s first F-35, the first of six F-35 aircraft that will be delivered this year,” says F-35 Program Executive Officer Vice Adm. Mat Winter. “The F-35A is a game-changing capability that will enable the South Korean Forces to operate side-by-side with our U.S. forces in protecting your nation’s homeland. I extend my personal congratulations to the combined government and industry team in achieving this milestone.”
The ceremony was attended by more than 450 guests, including five members of the Republic of Korea National Assembly Defense Committee, as well as Suh, Choo-suk, vice minister of National Defense; and Lt. Gen. Lee, Seong-yong, vice chief of staff of the ROKAF.
U.S. officials in attendance included Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for Acquisition and Sustainment; Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs; Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer; U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey.
“We are proud to support the Republic of Korea with the unrivalled 5th Generation F-35,” said Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO. “We know that it will be a symbol of strength reminding us all that when we partner together, our nations are safer, our people are more secure, and our future is brighter.”
The Republic of Korea’s F-35 program of record calls for 40 F-35A aircraft acquired through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and to be built at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The first aircraft will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where ROKAF pilots and maintainers will begin training. F-35s will arrive in country in 2019 to the Republic of Korea’s main operational base at Cheongju.
“Today is a truly meaningful day as we celebrate the roll-out of ROKAF’s first F-35A, the world’s best fighter jet, which will secure the sovereign airspace of the Republic of Korea,” the Republic of Korea’s Minister of Defense Song Young-moo said. “The deployment of the F-35 will serve as momentum to enhance the combined operations of the ROK-U.S. Air Forces, and advance ROKAF’s support capabilities for ground operations.”
The F-35 is an advanced, survivable, and connected fighter aircraft able to collect, analyze, and share data, a powerful force multiplier enhancing airborne, surface, and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enabling men and women in uniform to execute their mission and come home safe, officials say. To date, Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 280 F-35s and trained more than 580 pilots and 5,600 maintainers, while the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 130,000 cumulative flight hours.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 100,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services.