F35 assembly Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin crews in Fort Worth, Texas, begin work assembly work on an F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jet.

Lockheed Cleared for Low-Rate Production on Future F-35s

U.S. Naval Air Systems Command granted a $1.46-billion contract for low-rate initial production related to Lots 13 and 14 of the Joint Strike Fighter jets

Lockheed Martin Corp. has drawn a new, $1.46-billion contract from the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command for low-rate initial production (LRIP) related to Lots 13 and 14 of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The award is an acknowledgement of the forward-planning requirements for the F-35 program that Lockheed leads, notwithstanding the ongoing negotiations over the unit-cost for Lot 11.  

According to recent reports, negotiations are progressing slowly over the rate for upcoming productions series of the F-35. Lockheed is due to delivery 90 new jets this year, building toward a peak production rate of 160 new jets per year by 2023.

LRIP describes the initial, small-volume production phase of a defense program, in which the prospective first buyer and operator are able to begin testing the finished product, in order to gain confidence in the designs and capabilities, and to alter or specify further production requirements. Once the program has entered into a production phase and final acceptance is agreed, further production contracts are issued in accordance with defense budget projections and defense program necessities.

The new contract will support ongoing development for 145 aircraft in Lot 13 and 69 aircraft in Lot 14. These aircraft

The F-35 Lightning II is a series of three different single-engine, aircraft designed for ground attack and combat, and deployed by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, and the defense forces of multiple allied nations. The program has been under steady scrutiny and criticism for the high cost of individual aircraft, and Lockheed and other contractors have made steady efforts to contain the costs for future deliveries.

The U.S. Dept. of Defense has credited the cost-cutting efforts in the past, and both Lockheed and the Pentagon have set a goal to reduce the F-35A unit cost to $80 million by 2020.

Recently, it emerged that the F-35 jets already produced and delivered are in need of “continuous enhancements and improvements” to increase the capabilities of those aircraft.

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