July 30, 2013
Credit: Lockheed Martin
The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have agreed to a handshake deal for the latest two lots of F-35 airframes, and based on cost projections the program for the first time is targeting a unit price under $100 million, excluding engines and retrofits.
The deal covers 36 aircraft in low-rate, initial production (LRIP) lot 6 and another 35 in LRIP 7. Mandatory cuts handed down by sequestration in the fiscal 2013 budget did not ultimately affect the number of aircraft in LRIP 6, as once thought.
The total contract price and per-unit price figures will not be released until the contract is signed, according to Michael Rein, a Lockheed Martin spokesman.
However, the company says that unit cost of each variant will be reduced by about 4% lot over lot. Based on the pricing targets for LRIP 5, which was inked late last year — $105 million for the F-35A, $113 million for the F-35B and $125 million for F-35C — the per-unit targets can be projected for these new LRIP 6 and 7 jets.
The F-35A variant, designed for conventional takeoff and landing (and the version with greatest appeal to international partners) is projected to cost $100.8 million in LRIP 6 and $96.8 million in LRIP 7. This is the first time since the program began production that the projected unit cost will be under $100 million.
The F-35B, optimized for short takeoff and vertical landing, is expected to cost $108.5 million in LRIP 6 and $104.2 million in LRIP 7.
Finally, the F-35C, designed with a larger wing for aircraft carrier operations, is expected to cost $120 million in LRIP 6 and another $115.2 million in LRIP 7.
These prices do not include the cost of engines; the government contracts separately with Pratt & Whitney to purchase the F135. Pratt & Whitney will not release its unit cost, but the Pentagon said that in LRIP 3, each F-35A engine cost roughly $16 million and each F-35B engine cost about $38 million. Pratt and the Pentagon remain in contract negotiations for engines for LRIP 6, says company spokesman Matthew Bates.
These estimates also exclude the cost of retrofitting the aircraft that have been produced with upgrades required as a result of discoveries in flight testing that occurred in parallel with early manufacturing work.