Lockheed Martin Photo by Angel DelCueto
F-35 assembly at Lockheed Martin, Fort Worth, Tex.

DoD, Lockheed Studying $30B Deal for F-35s

July 26, 2022
The Pentagon has signaled an agreement on the cost for the next three production rounds for Lockheed’s Joint-Strike Fighter jet, though the number of aircraft to be delivered is still unknown.

A U.S. Dept. of Defense source indicated that Lockheed Martin’s next F-35 Joint Strike Fighter award should be worth about $30 billion, based on negotiations now in progress and reported by Bloomberg this week. The number of aircraft to be supplied under the new contract is not yet final, though the report confirmed that current planning calls for a total of 375 jets to be delivered under the 15th, 16th, and 17th round of production.

The 15th round is already in progress, and in May the DoD authorized suppliers to proceed with production for some parts destined for the 16th round.

The F-35 is a single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft designed for deployment for ground attack and combat, and available in three variants: F-35A, for conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL); F-35B, for short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL); and the F-35C carrier-based variant for Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant. Operators include the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, plus defense forces in nine allied nations. Supply deals are pending for six other foreign customers.

More than 800 F-35s have been manufactured since 2006.

Lockheed is the primary contractor for the F-35, leading a program with hundreds of supporting contractors.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office announced a preliminary agreement with Lockheed for a total of 375 aircraft over the next three funding rounds. That figure has decreased markedly from 478 aircraft targeted in an earlier planning stage.

Last September, DoD and Lockheed agreed to “rebaseline” the aircraft’s production schedule to achieve “predictability and stability in the production process while recovering the aircraft shortfall realized over the last year (2020) during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Under those new terms, Lockheed agreed to deliver 151-153 aircraft in 2022 and in 2023, and 156 aircraft annually in the following years.

The exceptional procurement costs for the F-35 has been a matter of debate for over a decade, but since the aircraft entered service the operating and maintenance costs have also become a matter of ongoing dispute between the supplier and the Pentagon.