The U.S. Navy issued a $90.3-million contract modification to an earlier award for Lockheed Martin Corp. to identify and execute cost-reduction initiatives for the F-35 Lightning II Air System, the Joint-Strike Fighter jet program.
According to the Dept. of Defense contract announcement, work will be performed at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Tex., and will be completed by June 2022.
The F-35 describes a series of three, Stealth-enabled 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.
Current reported delivery costs for the program are $89.2 million/unit for the F-35A; $115.5 million/unit for the F-35B; and $107.7 million for the F-35C.
More than 350 of the aircraft have been built and deployed since 2006. In addition to the high production costs, the aircraft have incurred unexpectedly high maintenance and operating costs. In 2018 the Pentagon briefly stopped accepting most deliveries of new F-35 aircraft due to maintenance costs on more than 200 jets already in service with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy.
During 2018 Lockheed Martin delivered 91 F-35 jets in 2018, as contracted, but only 54 were delivered "on-time" based on monthly contract targets, and 19 of these were reclassified from "late" in the settlement Lockheed and DoD reached, according to published reports.
In December 2018, the Dept. Of Defense authorized Lockheed and its program partners to proceed with Lot 12 of the program, which will consist of 106 total aircraft for U.S. defense services: 64 F-35A jets for the U.S. Air Force; 26 F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps; and 16 F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy. The order also covers 131 F-35As and 18 F-35Bs for non-DoD program participants and Foreign Military Sales customers.