The U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have finalized an $11.5 billion contract for the production and delivery of 141 F-35 aircraft at the lowest per aircraft price in program history. The 11th Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP 11) agreement funds 91 aircraft for the U.S. Services, 28 for F-35 International Partners and 22 for F-35 Foreign Military Sales customers. Deliveries will begin in 2019.
For the eleventh consecutive year, the cost of an F-35A was lowered. The LRIP 11 batch order sets the cost unit price of the F-35A, including aircraft, engine and fee at $89.2 million. This represents a 5.4 percent reduction from the $94.3 million it cost for an F-35A in LRIP 10.
In LRIP 11, the F-35B unit cost was lowered to $115.5 million. This represents a 5.7 percent reduction from the $122.4 million it cost for the short-takeoff and landing variant in LRIP 10. The F-35C unit cost was lowered to $107.7 million, 11.1 percent down from $121.2 million it cost for the carrier variant in LRIP 10.
“As production ramps up, and we implement additional cost savings initiatives, we are on track to reduce the cost of the F-35A to $80 million by 2020, which is equal to or less than legacy aircraft, while providing a major leap in capability,” said Greg Ulmer, F-35 Vice President and General Manager at Lockheed Martin. “This agreement for the next lot of F-35s represents a fair deal for the U.S. Government, our international partnership and industry. We remain focused on aggressively reducing F-35 cost and delivering best value.” Ulmer added.
The latest contract is a demonstration of the program’s progress and maturity. “Driving down cost is critical to the success of this program,” said Vice Admiral Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer, “industry and the government now set their sights on future acquisition approaches for the next three production lots to further reduce costs.
A V/STOL aviation milestone 56 years in the making – Feb 1962 Bill Bedford lands Hawker P.1127 on HMS Ark Royal. This week – Lt Cdr Nath Gray lands F-35B on HMS Queen Elizabeth for 1st time. Background read https://t.co/52FXTSiYH1 #avgeek #F35ondeck pic.twitter.com/l6IuiWA6zW
— Tim Robinson (@RAeSTimR) September 28, 2018
I'll be in my bunk. #F35ondeck 🤤 pic.twitter.com/wRMnZuOCps
— The Brit (@TheBrit96) September 28, 2018
Two other milestones marked recently were the first landing of F-35B on the Royal Navy Carrier, Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday, Sept 25 and the first combat mission conducted by the F-35B yesterday (Thursday, Sept 27).
The Marine Corps F-35B, Lightning II, conducted its first combat strike yesterday ( Sept. 27, 2018), operating from USS Essex (LHD-2), in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan. Part of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the jets joined the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), as the first combat-deployed MEU to replace the AV-8B Harrier with the F-35B Lightning II. are currently embarked on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) as part of Essex Amphibious Ready Group.
“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” said Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”
During this mission, the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander. In May 2018 the commander of the Israel Air Force (IAF) said Israel’s F-35A have been engaged in combat missions but did not disclose the type of specific mission or area of operation.