Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II   (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed ultimately gives up on ten F-35s in the original plans for LRIP-4

Lockheed and the Department of Defense have been working hard to hammer out a price and the number of aircraft that will be purchased in the LRIP-4 lot for the USAF F-35 Lightning II. The number of aircraft originally slated for delivery in the LRIP-4 purchase was 42. The Senate sought to cut that number to 32 aircraft in an effort to see some cost savings.

Lockheed Martin opposed the cutting of the ten aircraft from the purchase because the production cut would raise the cost of the aircraft across all of the nations involved in the F-35 program. Despite Lockheed warning this month that the cut could have "serious impact" on the program, Lockheed and the DoD have agreed to a delivery of 32 F-35 aircraft in the LRIP-4 lot.

Lockheed has stated that the negotiations are over and the agreement was reached on September 21, but the company notes that the contract has not yet been signed. Despite cutting ten aircraft from the order, the contract for LRIP-4 production is valued at about $5 billion according to a Lockheed spokesman.

The Pentagon issued a statement saying, "The negotiated price is below the independent cost estimate prepared earlier this year and reflects the contract type deemed most efficient by the Department. The Department believes this contract is a fair and reasonable basis for LRIP-4 and sets the appropriate foundation for future production lots."

The agreement and contract covers the production tooling for the aircraft and the sustainment of the fighters. Lockheed has maintained since early this summer that the deal was close to being finalized and blamed the delays on tough negotiating stances by it and the DoD. Ultimately, the DoD and Senate won the upper hands in the negotiations.

The F-35 program overall has been wrought with delays and issues with some of the aircraft. Issues with subsystems have led to a significant delays with the F-35B STOVL version of the aircraft. Lockheed said that the part failures were small things like cooling fans, door actuators, and vales that were failing at a higher than expected rate.

The DoD has stated before that the cost of the F-35 program from inception to retirement could cost the U.S. taxpayers as much as $382 billion.

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