After more than a year of tough negotiations, the Pentagon announced a $6.1 billion contract Wednesday on Lockheed Martin Aeronautics for production of the next 57 F-35 stealth fighters.
The Defense Department said the contract for the ninth batch of F-35s represents a 3.7 percent reduction in the average price of the airplanes from what it paid in the last order and an overall 58 percent cut from what it paid when the first planes were produced.
We will continue to negotiate in good faith with industry to keep the F-35 affordable and provide the best possible value for our customers.
Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer
Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program executive officer, said the contract represents a “fair and reasonable deal” for the government, the international partnership involved and the industry.
“We will continue to negotiate in good faith with industry to keep the F-35 affordable and provide the best possible value for our customers,” Bogdan said in a statement.
In a statement, Lockheed Martin said that it was disappointed with the government’s actions and that the contract was not mutually agreed on.
“Lockheed Martin has negotiated in good faith consistent with our commitment to reach a fair and reasonable agreement on this critical program,” said Michael Rein, director of F-35 communications. “We will continue to execute on the F-35 program and we will evaluate our options and path forward.”
A source close to the negotiations said Lockheed could go to federal court to dispute the contract terms.
The F-35 program, at $379 billion, is the most expensive weapon system in Pentagon history. It has been troubled, and the company has been trying to smooth its transition to full production at Lockheed’s Fort Worth plant.
Lockheed and the Pentagon have been involved in a dogfight over the futuristic plane’s costs. While it is a big supporter of the F-35, the Defense Department has wanted to bring its overall costs down. Recently, the cost of a single copy of the aircraft was $108 million. In 2013, an F-35 cost $112 million.
Among the 57 aircraft in the ninth order are 42 F-35As used by the Air Force and some of its foreign partners; 13 F-35Bs designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings and used by the Marines; and two F-35Cs built for Navy carrier landings.
Lockheed is scheduled to start delivery of the aircraft in the first quarter of 2017. When the order is completed, more than 250 F-35s will be in operation by eight nations, the Pentagon said. As of this month, 196 F-35s — including test aircraft — had been delivered from facilities in Fort Worth and Cameri, Italy.
Among the U.S., the eight partner nations helping develop the aircraft and foreign military sale participants, plans have been announced for the purchase of more than 3,100 F-35 fighters, the government said.
The other nations helping develop the F-35 are Australia, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. Japan and South Korea, along with Israel, are foreign military customers.