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F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - Cost

As recently as 2008 Lockheed officials said the cost for the three versions of the F-35 would be between $45 million and $63 million each. Program unit cost [total program cost, including development] rose from $76.7 million in 2001 to $136.8 million in 2012. Flyaway costs, excluding development costs, rose from $62.1 million in 2001 to $110.4 million in 2012. The 2013 South Korean FX-3 competition provides a fairely robust apples-to-apples price comparison for 60 fully equiped commercial sale aircraft. The F-15 Silent Eagle aircraft unit price was $40 million, and the F-35 Lightning II aircraft unit price was $180 million.

As of 2011 the LRIP 4 per-unit cost targets, without engine and the engine LRIP cost was approximately $30 million, are as follows:

  1. $111.6 million for the conventional takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) version
  2. $109.4 million for the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) aircraft
  3. $142.9 million for the carrier variant (CV)

In 2011 Lockheed Martin vice president Stephen O'Bryan said that while the early production models are costly — upwards of $150 million a copy, by 2016, when production is at full speed,the cost of each jet will fall. By then, he says, "average unit price of the airplane would be $65 million." This “includes the engine and all mission systems such as the APG-81 AESA radar, internally mounted targeting system, electronic attack and warfare systems, self-protection systems, infra-red missile warning system, communication and navigation equipment, and the helmet mounted display that is also used as a night vision system.”

The program began in November 1996 with a 5-year competition between Lockheed Martin and Boeing to determine the most capable and affordable preliminary aircraft design. On 26 October 2001 the Pentagon announced that Lockheed-Martin had won the largest military contract ever, a possible $200 billion competition to build the Joint Strike Fighter. Air Force Secretary Jim Roche said on the basis of strengths, weaknesses and degrees of risk of the program that the Lockheed-Martin team was the winner on a "best- value" basis. He said Lockheed-Martin was a clear winner over the team led by Boeing. Total cost of the contract to enter the systems development and demonstration phase is $19 billion. Pratt and Whitney has a $4 billion contract to design and build propulsion systems for the craft. The British were to contribute $2 billion to the program.

UNIT FLYAWAY COST [2015$]
2009 ~$68 million ~$87 million ~$92 million
UNIT FLYAWAY COST [2002$]
Jan 2005 $44.8 million $54.0-61.1 million $55.0-61.0 million
Oct 2001 $37.0 million $45.8 million $47.8 million
Nov 1996 $31.5 million $33.7-39.3 million $34.9-42.7 million

The 2013 South Korean FX-3 competition provides a fairely robust apples-to-apples price comparison for 60 fully equiped commercial sale aircraft. The F-15 Silent Eagle aircraft unit price was $40 million, and the F-35 Lightning II aircraft unit price was $180 million.

In 2016 the projected life of the F-35 Lightning II was extended by six years to 2070 after the US military services revised the number of flight hours their fleets should log before retirement. According to the Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) published 25 March 2016, the total cost of developing, building, basing, operating and maintaining 2,457 aircraft increased by 6.8% to $1.5 trillion (2015 dollars) compared to a year earlier.

The bulk of the increase was attributed to the US Air Force, which altered the assumed number of hours that each of its conventional-variant F-35As will fly in its lifetime. The US Air Force added 1.3 million flight hours to its 1,763-strong fleet’s forecast, while the Navy added 300,000 to its fleet.

The flyway cost of the F-35A [including the aircraft, engine and contractor fee] decreased by 2% to $100.6 million (2015 dollars), whereas the F-35C declined 4.1% to $110.7 million. And the short-takeoff-vertical-landing F-35B unit cost declined 2.5% to $122.9 million.

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson said 21 March 2017 "We have teamed with government and industry to launch the “Blueprint for Affordability” and the “Sustainment Cost Reduction Initiative. Through these efforts, we’ve set a goal to save our F-35 customers more than $5 billion dollars. We have worked diligently to drive down the cost of the F-35A – the most popular model, domestically and internationally. We agreed to a target of $85 million dollars or less per plane by 2019, in then-year dollars."




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