The Pentagon’s most expensive fighter aircraft program, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, will cost operators “less than any fourth generation fighter in the world”.
According to Lorraine Martin, general manager for the JSF, “By 2019, the F-35A (the Air Force version) will cost $85 million when counting future inflation.”
The figure, calculated at $75 million in 2013 dollars, includes engines and all weapon systems for the conventional-takeoff-and-landing fifth-generation fighter, Martin added.
At very recent, low-rate initial production lot 7 (LRIP-7), an engine-less F-35A came in around $98 million. If Lockheed can meet this cost goal, it would make the fifth-generation fighter competitively priced with fourth-generation aircraft such as the F-16 and F/A-18.
In 2013, the U.S acquisition report declared a drop to $391.2 billion cost from last year's estimate of $395.7 billion for developing and building the F-35, a new radar-evading fighter jet.
"This is the first year a cost reduction was noted. We will work with the F-35 Joint Program Office to implement further cost saving measures which will result in additional significant decreases to the total program cost," said Lockheed spokesperson.
A U.S report projected the total cost of the F-35 program down to $1.50 trillion from last year’s estimate of $1.51 billion, reflecting the lower projected acquisition cost.
Frank Kendall, head of Pentagon acquisition has made it clear that they are trying to keep the JSF price and program costs as low as possible, adding that their commitment to the F-35 is rock solid as the program has stabilized and cut costs.
Further, Lockheed Martin is expecting increased international orders for the plane, including the rollout of the first F-35 from Italy’s final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility toward the end of 2014, according to Defense News.
In comparison, Boeing’s new F/A-18E/F Super Hornet costs $51 million per aircraft, the Saab Gripen is estimated at about $61 million per aircraft, while the Dassault Rafale costs $67.9 million and Russian MiG-35 is priced at $30 million.