Lockheed Martin won a $3.49 billion US Defence Department contract to build 31 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the 4th batch of what is on track to be the priciest US arms purchase.Under the deal announced by the Pentagon, Lockheed will produce 10 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing models for the US Air Force, 16 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants for the Marine Corps, four F-35C aircraft-carrier variants for the US Navy and one F-35B for the British Navy, the Pentagon said.
Lockheed, the Pentagon's No.1 supplier by sales, reached agreement in September with the Defense Department on producing the 4th batch for a fixed price, two years earlier than had been planned. Previous production contracts had been on a 'cost-plus' basis, which lets a contractor shift certain overruns to the government.
On Monday (22 November), Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's top arms buyer, and colleagues are to review the F-35 program as a prelude to determining its fiscal 2012 budget. The program is projected to cost $382 billion for 2,443 aircraft over the next two decades.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates earlier this year added 13 months to the program's development phase, withheld $614 million in potential award fees to Lockheed and fired the Marine Corps major general who ran it.
Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with chief subcontractors Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.
A total of 31 radar-evading F-35s have been purchased in the previous three production batches. Three of these aircraft have exited Lockheed Martin's factory in Fort Worth, Texas. 19 test aircraft also have rolled out, the company said.
The US and 8 nations partnering in the project (Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Norway) plan to acquire over 3,100 F-35s. Israel recently announced plans to purchase 20 at a cost of $96 million per aircraft.