Editor’s Note: An initial version of the story provided an incorrect number of F-35s in the lots, based on information from Lockheed Martin. That figure is approximately 375.
“We are pleased to announce that the Department and Lockheed Martin reached a handshake agreement for the next F-35 lot buy on a basis of 375 aircraft,” William LaPlante, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, said in a statement.
The final price and quantities are not entirely certain and aren’t expected to be final for weeks or months. LaPlante said the deal may be changed by Congress in the FY23 budget and by international partners’ orders.
In an email sent Monday evening, after the first day of the show, Lockheed said more information on the pricing of the Lot 15 through 17 fighters will be announced when a final contract is signed. Information about how many of each variant the deal includes, and a breakdown by countries that will buy more of the planes, also will be released later, Lockheed said.
In an email to Defense News, company spokeswoman Laura Siebert said the contract likely will be awarded in late summer or fall.
“Through a collaborative effort with the F-35 enterprise, including the Joint Program Office, we have successfully reached an agreement on Lots 15 through 17,” the statement from Lockheed said. “In the midst of continued COVID-19 impacts and decreased F-35 quantities, the F-35 enterprise was able to achieve a cost per jet lower than record-breaking inflation trends.”
Reuters reported that the deal would be worth about $30 billion.
Lockheed said the deal also includes modernized hardware that will be needed to run the F-35′s Block 4 capabilities, which include the ability to carry more weapons, improved target recognition, and advanced electronic-warfare capabilities.
In a roundtable with reporters July 16 at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in England, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter said the deal was close to being done, but that multiple factors such as the COVID-19 crisis and the transition to Block 4 had complicated negotiations.
“We really, really need those Block 4 capabilities,” Hunter said Saturday. “And so we want to make sure that the contract accomplishes that, and it will. ... So I think it’s understandable that has taken a little bit of time to come together.”
The last deal for three lots of F-35s was finalized in 2019, which brought the cost of each F-35A under $80 million, hitting $77.9 million by Lot 14.
F-35Bs and Cs also saw their unit costs drop by Lot 14, to $101.3 million for the B variant and $94.4 million for the C.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the number of planes under the deal, as announced by Lockheed Martin at the Farnborough Air Show on July 19.
Joe Gould in Washington. D.C., contributed to this report.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.