U.S. Dept. of Defense / Lockheed
F-35C refueling

Pentagon Issues New F-35 Contracts Worth $2.35B

Jan. 1, 2020
Lockheed lands five awards for maintenance and supply-chain management, materials procurement, system updates, and software development for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft

The U.S. Dept. of Defense issued five new contracts to Lockheed Martin Corp. on December 31, totaling an estimated $2.35 billion, for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program. The largest of these, for $1.93 billion, covers recurring costs for ground maintenance and supply-chain management for the current fleet of in service with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy.

The F-35 is a series of three different, single-engine aircraft designed for ground attack and combat, and deployed by the USAF, USMC, and USN, 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 program lead contractor Lockheed and other contractors have made steady efforts to contain the costs for future deliveries.

In October 2019, Lockheed reached $34-billion agreement with the Pentagon for a total of 478 Joint Strike Fighter jets through the next three production series (Lots 13, 14, and 15.) That agreement notably set the F-35 unit cost below the $80-million target set by program critics, but the U.S. Congress has nevertheless resisted requests for a comprehensive, multi-year contract that would fund long-term production of the fighter aircraft. The focus on cost control has expanded and shifted to concern operational and maintenance costs of the F-35, including the cost of system updates and replacements to ensure that dozens of aircraft already in operation are up-to-date with technological advances incorporated into subsequent production series.

Among the five contracts issued to Lockheed by the Pentagon on December 31, the second — worth $172.2 million — will cover materials procurement for 28 F-35B and F-35C aircraft in Lot 15.

The third contract is a modification to an earlier award and will cover the cost of acquiring and installing more advanced ("next-generation") sensor systems for all thee variants.

The fourth award is an $81.97-million contract modification for software development. The fifth, a $68-million contract modification, will fund identification and correction of process issues for F-35 operation cards used by the USAF, USMC, and USN.