The US government on Thursday gave Lockheed Martin Corp $333.7 million as down payment to buy initial parts, components and materials for an eighth batch of F-35 jets.
The Pentagon locked in the funds hours before automatic budget cuts begin. It will now be exempt from the across-the-board spending reductions known as sequestration that take effect today.
The payment came even as the Pentagon lifted its order that has grounded F-35s since 22 February, allowing the attack jets to get back into service from today.
The grounding came after a routine inspection found a crack in a turbine blade of one of the aircraft. However investigators have concluded that it was a one-off incident, and was caused because the plane concerned was overused in test operations.
The eighth contract calls for 35 jets, including four aircraft for the UK and two for Norway, according to a Pentagon statement.
The agreement by the Pentagon and Lockheed underscores their shared commitment to continued development of the costliest US weapon system, Bloomberg said in a report.