Burbage said further reductions were expected in the next two production contracts now being negotiated with the Pentagon.
Pentagon officials and Lockheed have said they expect to wrap up those contract talks by this summer after long delays in the negotiations for the two previous batches of planes.
Burbage said there was a risk that further delays in U.S. orders, which had already added billions to the cost of the program, would slow cost cutting.
But he said the large number of countries involved and growing interest from additional buyers in Asia should help offset the impact of any budget-driven cuts in U.S. orders.
“It’s important to get that leveraged buying power of a larger production base than just the airplanes the U.S. is buying,” he said.
Along with the United States, eight countries are helping fund the F-35’s development: Britain, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Israel and Japan have also placed orders.
Burbage said much of the F-35 cost-cutting will come from suppliers that produce about 70 percent of the state-of-the-art plane, a big change from earlier weapons programs, when a given prime contractors built about 70 percent of a plane.
The F-35’s supply chain was spread around the world, a deliberate move aimed at ensuring continued commitment to the new weapons program by participating nations, he said.
“In many ways we’re recapitalizing the aerospace and defense industry while we’re recapitalizing the multi-role fighter forces,” Burbage told the reporters.