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The Defense Department announced on Tuesday its formal approval to proceed with full-rate production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, marking a significant milestone for the program. William LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, signed a memorandum authorizing the decision, known as Milestone C. The Pentagon confirmed this development in a statement, noting that the Defense Acquisition Board, chaired by LaPlante, convened on March 7 to evaluate the readiness to transition the F-35 into full-rate production.

In his remarks, LaPlante emphasized the significance of this decision, describing it as a major achievement for the F-35 program. He stated, “This decision — supported by my colleagues in the department — underscores to the services, F-35 cooperative program partners, and foreign military sales customers the stability and agility of the F-35, as well as the fulfillment of all statutory and regulatory requirements.”

The approval to move forward with full-rate production signals confidence in the F-35 program’s maturity and readiness to meet operational demands. It also reflects the culmination of extensive testing, evaluation, and development efforts aimed at ensuring the aircraft’s performance and capability meet the expectations of stakeholders.

As the F-35 program progresses into full-rate production, it will continue to play a pivotal role in enhancing the capabilities of the United States and its allies in air combat and multi-role missions. The decision reaffirms the commitment to delivering advanced and reliable aircraft to support national security objectives and maintain military superiority.

With this milestone achieved, the focus will now shift towards ramping up production to meet the demand from domestic and international customers. The F-35’s proven track record and ongoing improvements position it as a cornerstone of modern military aviation, capable of addressing evolving threats and challenges in the years ahead.