By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Oct. 29, 2019) -- The Defense Department finalized an agreement to purchase 478 additional F-35 Lightning II airplanes in a deal totaling $34 billion, officials said.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, announced yesterday's agreement between DOD and aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
The F-35s will form the backbone of the U.S. and allied fifth generation inventory for the foreseeable future, she said.
According to Lord, the agreement involving Lot 12 includes 149 aircraft, Lot 13 includes 160 aircraft, and Lot 14 includes 169 aircraft.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric T. Fick, the F-35 program executive officer, said those lots include 351 of the F-35A aircraft, which is the standard model used by the Air Force. There are also 86 of the F-35B aircraft, which is the vertical-takeoff model used by the Marine Corps, and 41 of the F-35C aircraft, which are for carrier-based operations.
Those aircraft are not all for the United States. Some of the planes are for partner nations, as well as nations that have purchased through foreign military sales.
Lord said acquisition and sustainment and the F-35 Joint Program Office are "laser-focused" on reducing costs for the aircraft, bringing up quality, and achieving timely deliveries.
"We will reach a unit recurring flyaway cost-per-aircraft target of $80 million for a U.S. Air Force F-35A price, by Lot 13 -- which is one lot earlier than planned," she said. "A significant milestone for the department."
Lord also said that there's a per-unit cost reduction for each variant of the aircraft that averages around 12.7% when comparing Lot 14 purchases to Lot 11 purchases. "These represent some of the largest achieved savings lot-over-lot for the program."
Fick said that the most recent contract award slows production of the F-35 from previous awards, giving a break to contractors involved in the aircraft's manufacture. The lot 12 purchase of 149 aircraft, for instance, is just slightly higher than the 141 aircraft in Lot 11.
"With this award we see from a production perspective the most dramatic rate increases in the production line are now behind us," Fick said. "This dramatic production rate increase has proven to be challenging for the supply chain, but the comparatively minor quantity changes across lots 12 through 14 should give it some breathing room as we move forward."
He said that breathing room for manufacturers allows for more timely delivery of parts to the production line and spares and repair parts to the field.
Currently, some 440 F-35 aircraft have been delivered to military organizations around the world -- including the United States, Norway, Israel, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea and Japan.