Pentagon Hopes to Accelerate Upcoming F-35 Procurement Deals

The U.S. Department of Defense hopes to shorten the time it takes to negotiate pricing on future orders of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, said the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin are making progress on accelerating Lots 12 and 13.  The upcoming Lot 12 deal will be the largest batch of F-35s ordered so far, totaling 250 airframes.

F-35A during takeoff
An F-35A takes off from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ridge Shan

The last two production deals took over a year each to finalize.  The Pentagon most recently reached an $11.5 billion deal in late September for 141 aircraft – representing Lot 11 – after having initiated procurement of those aircraft with an initial payment of $5.5 billion in July 2017.  Production Lot 10, an $8.2 billion deal that covered 90 aircraft, also took over a year to work out.  Comparatively, recent briefing slides suggested a contract award for Lot 12 could be completed as early as next month.  However, the program continues to struggle with various production issues that could slow these plans.

The DoD requested funding for 77 F-35s in its FY19 budget, comprising 48 F-35As, 20 F-35Bs, and nine F-35Cs.  Congress added funding for an additional eight F-35As, two F-35Bs, and six F-35Cs, for a total of 93 aircraft split between the major services.  According to FY19 budget documents, the DoD plans to buy a total of 457 F-35s between FY19 and FY23: 258 F-35As, 102 F-35Bs, and 97 F-35Cs, not including the 16 aircraft added by Congress for FY19.

About Shaun McDougall

Shaun McDougall is an analyst at Forecast International covering the U.S. and Canadian defense markets.

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