The cost is expected to slowly decrease until LRIP 10, when each unit is projected to require $760,000 to retrofit over last fall's estimate of $1.1 million per aircraft.
The retrofit estimates include non-recurring engineering for the fixes. Though foreign F-35 buyers will not have to pay for these non-recurring costs (those are included in the U.S.-specific development contract), they will have to pick up the tab for the actual retrofits if they decide to install them on their aircraft, according to the JPO official. Additionally, the U.S. services have the discretion on which retrofits to install. The program office is categorizing them by those that are essential to operate the aircraft (such as safety or durability issues) versus those that are “nice to have,” the JPO official says.
Lawmakers requested these concurrency cost reports as a result of concerns that these estimates were very high, adding significantly to the per-unit price of the actual aircraft. Based on the contracted target cost for LRIP 5 aircraft, the F-35A is estimated at $105 million, the F-35B at $113 million and the F-35C at $125 million. Based on the revised concurrency estimates, the Pentagon can expect to pay an additional $10 million per aircraft for retrofits, about 10% of the price of the F-35A.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, said last winter he expects to be able to stabilize the price of the F-35A, the predominant model sought for export, at between $80-90 million. At that point, in full-rate production, there should be virtually no retrofits required.