Lockheed credits Trump's involvement in deal for 90 F-35 jets

Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon have reached an agreement to buy 90 F-35 fighter jets, with the defense contractor crediting the reduced price per unit to President Trump's involvement in the deal.

“President Trump’s personal involvement in the F-35 program accelerated the negotiations and sharpened our focus on driving down the price,” the company said in a statement. “The agreement was reached in a matter of weeks and represents significant savings over previous contracts.”

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The contract is worth about $8.5 billion, a decrease of $728 million from the last batch. The price per jet for the F-35A will also land below $100 million for the first time.

The latest “contract is a good and fair deal for the taxpayers, the U.S. government, allies and industry," Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, said in a statement. “We continue to work with Industry to drive costs out of the program.”

In December, Trump tweeted that costs for Lockheed’s F-35 fighter jet program were “out of control.”

He also pitted Lockheed against rival Boeing, tweeting that he had asked Boeing to price out an F-18 comparable to the F-35.

It’s unclear how much Trump’s intervention actually shaved off the cost of the latest batch of fighter jets, as defense analysts and supporters of the program have said the cost per unit was already declining. 

The latest contract is for 44 F-35As for the Air Force, nine F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and two F-35Cs for the Navy. The remaining 35 jets will go to international partners and foreign military sales customers.

The price per unit will be $94.6 million for the F-35A, $122.8 million for the F-35B and $121.8 million for the F-35C.

The F-35 has been labeled the most expensive acquisition program in Pentagon history, estimated to total $400 billion for 2,457 planes. The program has been a frequent target of critics for cost and time overruns.

Supporters say the cost issues were in the research and development phase. Now that the planes are in production, they say, the price per unit is going down.

Defense Secretary James Mattis recently ordered a review of the F-35 program to find ways to reduce costs. It will include a comparison of the F-35C to the F-18.