Defense Department and Lockheed Martin officials announced on Tuesday they’ve reached a “handshake deal” on the sixth and seventh low-rate initial production lots for the F-35 strike fighter. The agreement in principle—which covers the F-35 air vehicles, but not their engines—features a unit price low enough that budget sequestration won’t reduce the buy, according to the F-35 program office. A decrease in the unit costs for those two lots, “coupled with negotiating lower prices on a number of other smaller contracts,” made that possible, said F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova. The two lots total 71 aircraft for the United States and foreign partners, starting with 36 in LRIP 6. While the parties are still hammering out the details, “in general,” the unit prices in LRIP 6 “are roughly four percent lower than the previous contract,” said DellaVedova, while those in LRIP 7 are four percent cheaper still. Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, said work will continue to improve the F-35’s affordability, but the agreement is “proof the cost arrow is moving in the right direction.” LRIP 6 deliveries will start in mid-2014. The Pentagon ordered 95 F-35s through LRIP 5. (See also Lockheed Martin release and From One Generation to the Next.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.