The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin on Monday completed a $34 billion deal that will result in the delivery of 478 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets with what U.S. officials say will be a significant cost saving per aircraft.
“This is a historic milestone for the F-35 enterprise,” said Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. “The F-35 is our largest [tactical air] investment and will form the backbone of U.S. and allied fifth generation inventory for the foreseeable future.”
The agreement covers the 12th, 13th and 14th batches — known as “lots” — of F-35s ordered by the Pentagon. The F-35A was designed for the Air Force, while the U.S. Navy will use an F-35C capable of landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier. The U.S. Marine Corps will fly the F-35B, a short take-off and landing capable fighter jet.
The sale will result in 291 F-35s for the U.S. military and 127 for allies. Lockheed Martin officials said 60 will be set aside for foreign military sales.
“The F-35 program remains one of my top acquisition and sustainment priorities,” Ms. Lord said.
Pentagon officials say that, on average, the costs will drop by up to 13% from Lot 12 to Lot 14. For instance, the Navy’s F-35C will go from $103 million per plane in Lot 12 to $94.4 million by Lot 14, officials said.
“Driving down the cost will be critical to the success of this program,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, head of the F-35 program office at the Pentagon.
The F-35 has been at the center of a major rift between the U.S. and Turkey, a key ally.
Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian-built S-400 missile system means it will lose access to the F-35 program. Pentagon officials said the Russian missile system is incompatible with the F-35 and could compromise key technical details of the fighter. Turkish companies make nearly 1,000 parts for the F-35, Pentagon officials said.
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