America's most expensive weapons system sees the lowest price in its 16-year history

Amanda f35cUS NavyAn F-35C carrier variant joint strike fighter lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon and its top weapons supplier agreed on the lowest set of prices for the F-35 — the US’s most expensive weapons system — since the program began in 2001.

On Friday, the F-35 Joint Program Office released the finalised price for the most recent production contract for America’s fifth generation stealth fighter. The 10th Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP-10) contract for 90 F-35 jets came in $728 million less than LRIP-9.

On Monday, President Donald Trump announced that the latest contract with Lockheed Martin for the F-35 will be reduced by $600 million.

And though it would appear that Trump — after publicly criticising the crown jewel in the defence giant’s portfolio — is the reason for the savings, the price reduction was in the works.

Rewinding the tape back to a December 19 briefing, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, head of the F-35 Joint Program Office, said the price for LRIP-10 contract would be reduced “significantly.”

“I fully anticipate that when we do settle LRIP-10 you’ll see all three variants, the A, the B, and the C come down in price significantly,” Bogdan said.
And by “significantly” Bogdan added that he believes “somewhere on the order of 6 to 7 per cent per aeroplane, per variant.”

F35bUS NavyAn aviation boatswain’s mate maneuvers BF-04, front, the U.S. Marine Corps variant of the F-35B after a vertical landing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

The finalised price for LRIP-9, which took 14 months of negotiations between the Department of Defence and Lockheed Martin, for 57 F-35 jets was valued at $6.1 billion.

The unit price for an F-35A in current year dollars (including aircraft, engine, and fee) is $102.1 million. If you take the 6 to 7 per cent reduction into account, the savings on LRIP-10 are ballpark to the price point laid out by the Joint Program Office back in December.

Most notably in LRIP-10, the total price for an F-35A falls below $100 million for the first time.

The LRIP-10 contract includes 55 jets for the US and 35 for seven international partners and foreign military sales clients.

The following is a breakdown of the unit price per variant in current year dollars (including aircraft, engine, and fee):

Here’s the price tag for the latest batch of F-35s:

F-35A model aircraft: $94.6 million a jet

F-35 model aircraft: $122.8 million a jet

F-35C model aircraft: $121.8 million a jet

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