Donley said the U.S. government was “getting close” to an agreement with Lockheed about a fifth batch of F-35 jets.
Lockheed President Marillyn Hewson told the conference earlier on Thursday that talks with the Pentagon - which have been under way for about a year - were going well and an agreement was likely before the end of the year.
“Those negotiations are progressing well,” she said at her first major presentation to Wall Street investors since being named Lockheed president and chief operating officer earlier this month. “I do feel confident that we’re going to get to closure on Lot 5 this year,” she said.
Lockheed and the Pentagon were also making progress in talks about additional funding for early work on the sixth batch of F-35 jets, said Hewson. She will become Lockheed’s CEO in January, succeeding Christopher Kubasik, who was forced out after admitting to having an affair with a subordinate.
Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said Hewson had played a key role in the company’s talks with the Pentagon, and the two sides had “closed a lot of our differences.”
Details of the expected agreement were not immediately available, but sources familiar with the negotiations said they expected it to include a reduction in the cost for each F-35 fighter jet from the fourth production contract, although the number of jets to be ordered will not increase.
The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told Reuters on Wednesday that the two sides were “getting close” to an agreement on the fifth production contract.
He said he had “a very positive meeting” on Tuesday with Hewson about a range of issues, including the F-35.
Lockheed, the Pentagon’s largest contractor, and its suppliers are already building the fifth batch of F-35 planes under a preliminary contract, but the two sides have been struggling since last December to finalize the deal.
In September, Air Force Major General Christopher Bogdan, who is moving up to head the F-35 program next week, said ties between Lockheed and the U.S. government were “the worst” he had ever seen in his years working on big acquisition programs.