Factbox: What Does Lockheed's F-35 Fighter Jet Really Cost?

By Reuters

* The 22 Air Force models included in the last contracts cost $119 million each, according to Bogdan, compared to a price of $127 million per plane a year earlier.

* The cost of the three Marine Corps’ B-models in the fifth order, which have a more complex engine to allow it to land like a helicopter, is estimated at $153 million per plane, down from $164 million a year ago, when the Pentagon bought 17 B-models, according to defense officials familiar with the estimates.

* The seven Navy carrier variants or C-models in the fifth batch cost around $139 million, down from $148 million a year earlier, according to estimates by U.S. defense officials.

Over time, as production quantities increase, the jets are expected to start dropping in price. The per-plane forecasts factor in foreign orders, which are not included in the U.S. development, procurement and operating cost.

Bogdan recently said he expected to reach the target price at least for the A-model by 2020, when Australia is due to start buying the first of the 100 F-35s currently in its plans.

Lockheed executives say they believe the government’s estimates are too conservative, and predict that the price of the new warplane will be even lower once the company starts full-rate production later this decade.

Critics of the program say Pentagon cost projections are probably too low, noting that further technical issues may well arise during flight testing of the new fighter jet.

The jet is built by Lockheed at its Fort Worth, Texas, plant, with Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L) serving as key suppliers. Engines are built by Pratt & Whitney.

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