Paris Air Show 2017: Lockheed Martin prepares for first F-35 block buy

19 June 2017

Lockheed Martin is drawing up a block buy proposal for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) that could save the US government an extra USD2 billion per year from about 2021, officials told reporters on 19 June.

Speaking at the Paris Air Show, Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin's executive vice-president and general manager for the F-35, said that the company has been approached by the Joint Program Office (JPO) to draw up a block buy that would include the planned low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots 12 to 14 to deliver substantial savings.

"This block buy would allow industry to be far more efficient in ordering [for the programme] and far more confident. It would cover between 440 and 460 aircraft, which is about as many as all of the LRIP lots so far, [and] could enable USD2 billion in savings per year over what we could otherwise do," Babione said, adding that the total cost of the block buy would be in the order of between USD35-40 billion (including sustainment and support). This would not be the same as a multiyear contract, which can only be awarded once full-rate production has been approved.

As noted by Babione, this block buy would be the latest in a string of initiatives that have driven down the unit cost of the cheapest conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A from USD250 million in Lot 1 to USD96.4 million in the latest LRIP 10. "These savings haven't happened by accident," he said. "They have been achieved through working harder and smarter."

Key to this reduction has been the Blueprint for Affordability initiative that was rolled out in 2014. This initiative saw Lockheed Martin and partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems front-up a combined USD170 million in extra investment through to 2016, with the purpose of reducing the cost of an F-35A (including engine) to USD85 million by 2019.

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The planned block buy is the latest proposal geared at driving costs out of the F-35 programme. (US Air Force)The planned block buy is the latest proposal geared at driving costs out of the F-35 programme. (US Air Force)

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