The F-35A was expected to cost $85 million, less than any fourth-generation fighter ‘in the 2019-2020 timeframe’ with the other two F-35 variants also reducing significantly in price.
“Our initial target is to get them down to the equivalent or very close to what we’re currently spending to sustain fourth-generation fighters” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein.
“We’re going to be buying these aircraft for a number of years, so it’s way too early to be talking about any curtailment of any procurement or any buy.”
Stephen Lovegrove, the MoD permanent secretary, had earlier expressed doubt over this earlier in the year:
“This is a new platform, and I am constantly being asked by parliamentarians in the U.K. as to what the total cost is going to be, and they are sometimes, understandably, a bit frustrated when I have to turn around and say at the moment: ‘Nobody is entirely sure’. But we must maintain an absolutely laser-like focus on keeping those costs down because historically this is the one area where we’ve been OK at buying stuff, but we’ve not been necessarily good at sustaining and operating it as cost effectively as we possibly can. We need to work very, very hard on that, and we are doing so.”
Jeff Babione, the previous Lockheed Martin programme manager for the F-35, told reporters that the cost of the F-35A will drop to about $85 million by 2019, something also reiterated in a recent statement regarding price-concerns raised by US president-elect Donald Trump. This is understood to be thanks to efficiencies and cost-cutting manufacturing technologies. The B and C variants are also steadily reducing in cost.
By contrast, the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft comes in at $98.3 million (2016 flyaway cost.
Jeff Babione said:
“We think that price with this capability will be unbeatable. You’ll be able to afford a fifth-generation airplane for what would be a fourth-generation price for anything else offered in the free world. The Lockheed/BAE/Northrop Grumman contractor team is hyper-focused on reducing the price of the airplane. It is a fact this program is over budget from 2001’s baseline. It’s just true. We will never underrun that number. We will never save that money. It’s gone. What matters is since that time, what’s happened to the cost on the program? It’s gone down, not gone up. Judge the program today, not where it’s been, but where it is and where it’s going.”