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July 30, 2013

Pentagon will buy 71 additional F-35 jet fighters


The price tag of Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet fighter is dropping, and Washington is looking to buy 71 additional aircraft, Pentagon officials announced Tuesday.

The contract between Lockheed and the Pentagon will be released once details are finalized, but estimates show that "in principle" the new agreement for lots 6 and 7 of the aircraft come at a cost that is eight percent less than the contract signed for lot 5 in December. (The unit price for all three variants of the F-35 is roughly 4 percent less than the previous contract, Pentagon officials say.)

Cost reductions will allow the Pentagon to purchase more than 2,400 aircraft, including those that were in jeopardy of being cut due to budget tightening.

"These two contracts represent a fair deal that is beneficial to the government and Lockheed Martin," said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35's Program Executive Officer. "Improving affordability is critical to the success of this program, and by working together we were able to negotiate a lower cost F-35.

"There is still work to be done, but these agreements are proof the cost arrow is moving in the right direction.  We will continue to work with industry to identify areas for savings in future production contracts."

The new contracts will also include the first F-35s for Australia, Italy, Norway, and the fourth F-35 for the United Kingdom. In addition to procuring the air vehicles, these contracts also fund manufacturing-support equipment and ancillary mission equipment.

Deliveries of 36 U.S. and partner nation aircraft in lot 6 will begin by mid-2014 and deliveries of 35 U.S. and partner nation aircraft in lot 7 will begin by mid-2015.

Lorraine Martin,Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin, said that Lockheed is committed to working with the Pentagon.

The U.S. and eight partner nations plan to acquire more than 3,100 jet fighters.

Israel and Japan have also announced plans to purchase the jet under Foreign Military Sales agreements.

The agreement in principle reached between the Government and Lockheed Martin are for air vehicles and do not include the propulsion systems.  The lot 6 engine contract is currently being negotiated between the government and Pratt & Whitney.

--  Yamil Berard


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