The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program office just release the per plane costs for last month's contract for 32 initial production jets. While each airplane came in at well over $100 million, this price does indeed represent a downward trend in the cost of the plane.
The 17 F-35Bs in the deal came in the cheapest, at $109.4 million each, followed by the 11 F-35As at $111.6 million apiece, according to a Dec. 17 e-mail from the new JSF spokesman, Joe DellaVedova. The relatively small buy of four F-35Cs came in at $142.9 million per jet. The deal doesn't include the price of the jet's F135 engine.
Lockheed officials have long pitched the $3.4 billion fixed-price deal -- known as LRIP-4 -- as a statement of their confidence that the company will get the jet's cost under control.
These numbers were first published in Aviation Week, which listed the cost of an F-35A at $128 million a copy in the previous batch of production jets, known as LRIP-3. The first batch of F-35As cost $221 million apiece.
Lockheed and Defense Department officials have long said that as F-35 production ramps up and more jets are ordered, costs will sink. However, the program has been suffered years worth of development delays which have led to predictions of serious cost increases.
All of this comes as the Pentagon is wrapping up what's said to be the most thorough examination of the program in it's history, the Technical Baseline Review.
That review will establish a new cost profile and schedule for the airplane. Reports have been surfacing over the last two months that the review will reveal a schedule slip of several years for the program and billions in cost increases. Earlier this week, Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James Amos, admitted that the Corps will not be flying the jets operationally by 2012, as originally planned.