The Pentagon announced late yesterday that it had signed a $4.7 billion deal with Lockheed Martin for an eighth batch of F-35 stealth fighters, less than one month after the news was leaked by sources pending pact, Investors.com reported.
The deal was for a total of 43 jets, with 29 for the US and 14 others for Israel, Japan, Norway, Britain and Italy. The F-35 is the most expensive weapons programme ever. However, the cost per plane for this batch was 3.5 per cent less compared with the seventh and the cost per plane had dropped 57 per cent since the first contract.
Over 200 F-35s would be in operation with 8 countries once the eighth lot was completed.
On 4 November, United Technologies' Pratt & Whitney division announced a $1.05 billion contract for an eighth batch of engines for the F-35.
The pact included 48 F135 engines at a 3.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent discount from the last batch.
The Pentagon would be expected to order a ninth and 10th batch of F-35s soon with the engine and fighter jet deals negotiated separately.
The Marine Corps said last month that it still expected the F-35 to be ready for combat use in July 2015, and might delay some non-critical modifications if required.
According to the programme office, the new contract cut the cost of the A-model airframe built for the Air Force, without the engine, to $94.8 million, Reuters reported.
The cost of the F-35 B-model, which is capable taking off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter, would be $102 million, without an engine, while the Navy's C-model or carrier variant would be $115.7 million, it said.
The Pentagon offers not detailed cost breakdowns for Pratt's F135 engine, due to the company's proprietary data concerns, but US officials had said they expected the cost of the aircraft, with an engine, to drop to about $80 million to $85 million by 2019.
According to Lockheed's F-35 programme manager Lorraine Martin, the latest contract showed the company was making steady progress in cutting the cost of the most advanced US warplane.
Lockheed and its key subcontractors, Northrop Grumman Corp and BAE Systems Plc, as also Pratt, had been making investments in various measures aimed at simplifying production of the jets and cutting the cost for their building and operation.
However, the biggest driver in cutting the cost of the plane was the number of jets ordered in any given year.