The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded USD5.6 billion for the low-rate initial production (LRIP) of 74 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft.
The contract, which was awarded to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) on 7 July, is for USD5.57 billion and covers 48 F-35A aircraft for the US Air Force (USAF), 18 F-35B aircraft for the US Marine Corps (USMC), and eight F-35C aircraft for the US Navy (USN) and USMC. Work is expected to be completed in December 2020.
This contract modification follows on the back of previously announced Lot 11 awards dating back to late 2015 that total USD3.2 billion. These previous contracts have included jets for the USAF, USMC, and USN, as well as Australia, Israel, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Turkey, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
LRIP 11 will encompass approximately 145 F-35A/B/C aircraft, with a unit cost (including engine) of the cheapest F-35A variant slated at being between USD94.6 million (LRIP 10) and USD85 million (LRIP 13).
LRIP 11 is expected to be the last contract ahead of a proposed block buy for the F-35 that was recently announced by Lockheed Martin officials at the Paris Air Show. This block buy, the terms of which the company is still drawing up, would include LRIP 12 to 14 to deliver savings estimated at an extra USD2 billion per year from about 2021.
Lockheed Martin's executive vice-president and general manager for the F-35, Jeff Babione, explained that such a deal would cover between 440 and 460 aircraft, which is about as many as all of the LRIP lots so far contracted. The total cost of this block buy would be in the order of USD35–40 billion (including sustainment and support).
This block buy would be the latest in a string of initiatives, chief of which is the Blueprint for Affordability initiative that was rolled out in 2014.
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