• The announcement came as the program suffered the first crash in its history. Credit: Lockheed Martin
    The announcement came as the program suffered the first crash in its history. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The US Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have finalized an US$11.5 billion contract for 141 F-35 aircraft at the lowest per aircraft price in program history on the same day that an F-35B crashed in South Carolina. 

The new F-35A unit price is $89.2 million, which is a 5.4 per cent reduction from the previous $94.3 million cost for an F-35A in Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 10 (LRIP 10).

The new F-35B unit cost has been lowered 5.7 per cent to $115.5 million, and the F-35C is down 11.1 per cent to $107.7 million. 

“Driving down cost is critical to the success of this program,” Vice Admiral Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer, said. “We are delivering on our commitment to get the best price for taxpayers and warfighters. This agreement for the next lot of F-35s represents a fair deal for the US. Government, our international partnership and industry. We remain focused on aggressively reducing F-35 cost and delivering best value.”

“This agreement marks a significant step forward for the F-35 program as we continue to increase production, reduce costs and deliver transformational capabilities to our men and women in uniform,” Greg Ulmer, F-35 Vice President and General Manager, said. “As production ramps up, and we implement additional cost savings initiatives, we are on track to reduce the cost of the F-35A to $80 million by 2020, which is equal to or less than legacy aircraft, while providing a major leap in capability.”

Unfortunately the news of the cost reduction came on the same day that an F-35B belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 came down and burst into flames near Beaufort, South Carolina. The pilot ejected safely. The cause of the crash is unknown, with investigations underway.

The crash is the first such incident for the F-35 program.

Australia is procuring a different variant of the aircraft, the F-35A, but it remains unclear whether the crash in South Carolina will impact Australian jets currently at Luke Air Force Base, Utah.

Australia's first two F-35s are due to arrive at RAAF Williamtown in December.

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