The U.S. Dept. of Defense issued a $4.7-billion award to Lockheed Martin Corp. to proceed with an order for 78 new F-35 fighter aircraft. The order represents a customary modification to the established "fixed-price-incentive-firm-target, firm-fixed-price" contract for the F-35 program, which recently completed and delivered it 500th jet.
In the new order, 48 F-35A combat aircraft will be supplied to the U.S. Air Force, 14 F-35B combat aircraft will be supplied to the U.S. Marine Corps, and 16 F-35C fighter aircraft will be supplied to the U.S. Navy.
The F-35 is a series of three different, single-engine aircraft with Stealth capability and designed for ground attack and combat. It's deployed by the USAF, USMC, and USN, and the defense forces of multiple allied nations.
The F-35 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.
Last fall, 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.
According to DoD, the work for the new order will be performed in by Lockheed in Fort Worth, Tex.; El Segundo and San Diego, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Nashua, N.H.; Baltimore, Md.; and Warton, England, as well as various locations.
Work is expected to be complete by March 2023.