The U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have reached an agreement in principle for the production of 43 F-35 Lightning II aircraft under the Low-Rate Initial Production lot 8 (LRIP 8).
The production contract is to be finalized in the coming weeks. The contract is for fiscal year 2014 with deliveries beginning in 2016. The price is expected to be approximately 3.8% lower than in previous contracts, an official release said adding that cost details will be released once the contract is finalized.
"Today's agreement is representative of the program's ongoing maturation," said F-35 Program Executive Officer, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan. "Once production of LRIP 8 aircraft is completed, more than 200 F-35s will be in operation by eight nations. We are glad the Government and LM are completing a fair and reasonable contract for the 8th lot of aircraft."
The LRIP 8 contract procures 29 U.S. aircraft including 19 F-35As, six F-35Bs and four F-35Cs. It also provides for the production of the first two F-35As for Israel, the first four F-35As for Japan along with two F-35As for Norway and two F-35As for Italy. The United Kingdom will receive four F-35Bs. The contract also funds manufacturing-support equipment as well as ancillary mission equipment.
"Affordability is a key performance parameter in today's challenging acquisition environment." said Lockheed Martin F-35 Program General Manager Lorraine Martin. "Working together with our suppliers, we are making steady progress in reducing F-35 costs. While there will always be room for improvement, the results of the LRIP 8 negotiations and initiatives like the Blueprint for Affordability are indicative of our shared commitment to ensuring affordability."
Launched earlier this year, Blueprint for Affordability aims to reduce the price of an F-35 5th generation fighter to the equivalent of today's 4th generation fighters by the end of the decade. The initiative leverages upfront investments from key industry partners Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman to drive down production costs. Cost savings from this initiative will begin in LRIP 9.
The LRIP 8 aircraft join 166 F-35s contracted under LRIPs 1-7. As of October 24, 2014, 115 F-35s, including test aircraft, were delivered from Lockheed Martin's production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The U.S., eight Partner nations, and Foreign Military Sales participants have announced plans to procure more than 3,100 F-35 aircraft over the life of the program.