F-35 LRIP-4 Costs Detailed

F-35 LRIP-4 Costs Detailed

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program office just release the per plane costs for last month’s contract for 32 initial production jets. While each airplane came in at well over $100 million, this price does indeed represent a downward trend in the cost of the plane.

The 17 F-35Bs in the deal came in the cheapest, at $109.4 million each, followed by the 11 F-35As at $111.6 million apiece, according to a Dec. 17 e-mail from the new JSF spokesman, Joe DellaVedova. The relatively small buy of four F-35Cs came in at $142.9 million per jet. The deal doesn’t include the price of the jet’s F135 engine.

Lockheed officials have long pitched the $3.4 billion fixed-price deal — known as LRIP-4 — as a statement of their confidence that the company will get the jet’s cost under control.

These numbers were first published in Aviation Week, which listed the cost of an F-35A at $128 million a copy in the previous batch of production jets, known as LRIP-3. The first batch of F-35As cost $221 million apiece.

Lockheed and Defense Department officials have long said that as F-35 production ramps up and more jets are ordered, costs will sink. However, the program has been suffered years worth of development delays which have led to predictions of serious cost increases.

All of this comes as the Pentagon is wrapping up what’s said to be the most thorough examination of the program in it’s history, the Technical Baseline Review.

That review will establish a new cost profile and schedule for the airplane. Reports have been surfacing over the last two months that the review will reveal a schedule slip of several years for the program and billions in cost increases. Earlier this week, Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James Amos, admitted that the Corps will not be flying the jets operationally by 2012, as originally planned.

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Where is Lockheed in all of this? Where is the accountability? You know you have a problem when contractors make more money running a program then they would delivering a product.

Do they come with or without bug-free software? No, that’s in the luxury option package that includes the heated leather seats.

Gee, at a rough-average cost then of ~$150M per aircraft,
I can’t wait to see just how much it will cost just to upgrade one come midlife
(avionics, engine, fatigued structural components):
how long are these F-35s supposed to last?


LOL downward trend alright, just strip out the engine and software from the “unit” cost, but then the unit isn’t that useful now is it?

I’m not even close to being a “fan” of this program, but this story is about LRIP aircraft. They are not production representative, they are not cost representative.

Here’s an important paragraph from the Av Week article (curious why it was left off this one):

“The LRIP IV contract stipulates that the government’s maximum per-unit financial exposure is 120% of the target price. Any overrun exceeding that ceiling (which represents the out-of-pocket cost to the government) would be paid for by prime JSF contractor Lockheed Martin. The funding would first come out of the company’s profit. ”

So they’re projecting the different versions will cost $90 to $120 million. Still a pretty long way above where the cost estimates started, though.

Good point. They are not production representative–yet all the cheerleaders want to spend over $50B on hundreds of LRIP mistake jets. Interesting too is when this whole circus started there were only 6 LRIP batches. Now there are 9.

And traditionally, LRIP is only supposed to represent 10 percent of production. However, we don’t know when full rate production will start because FRP dates keep slipping.

And what we are building will be obsolete when it is fielded.

Something started bugging me about that paragraph I quoted.

Does the 120% refer to the LRIP aircraft, or to the maximum projected cost of production aircraft? Because the way this is worded could mean the government will pay no more than $133.9 M for an LRIP IV F-35A, for example. That probably is what they’re saying, the more I look at it. So worst case, these aircraft are no less expensive than the previous batch. As for that tough-looking clause to make LM pay the overage ends up being a few million bucks, and they’d have to screw up pretty badly. What a wonderful contract!

There’s more in the Av Week article about LM’s confidence they can get the cost of the CTOL aircraft down to $60 M. Anyone care to guess whether they’ll ever build enough of them quickly enough to realize the necessary efficiency, and when-if-ever that would kick in?

According to the Air Force and Navy budget books, looks like the F-35A came in $4 million a copy more than the estimate; the F-35B, $110 million less; and the F-35C, $5 million more, than the estimates. This doesn’t include Engineering Change Orders (ECO) or the engines. So, I’d say there is no cost savings in FY-11. So, what deal did we get?

BTW, the first few dozen aircraft go to the training squadrons, but should be production representative.

One of the purposes of LRIP aircraft is to support initial operational test & evaluation. If they are not production representative, then the integrity of IOT&E is compromised. DoD rushes systems into LRIP to create a ‘too big to fail’ political situation. The compromised integrity of the system, flawed products, and cost overruns are all symptoms of the incompetence and greed of the particular weapon system advocates. The solution? Don’t get in bed (committed to) with a single course of action. We need to base decision making on sound, objective analysis. Unfortunately, insanity is currently winning. The most depressing thing about the whole situation, is that we have replayed this tragic comedy of errors over and over again and again. People do not learn.

What is the cost of an F-22A? I’ve been googling articles and they all come up different. Is it 173 million per plane? If the F-22A is cheaper than the F-35A then for air to air roles it would be better to buy more F-22As and less F-35As for the high aircraft. Correct?


“the marginal cost of buying one additional [F-22] aircraft has come down to (just!) $138 million, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that a larger order of 70 additional [F-22] aircraft could have brought that number down to $70 million a pop.”

Do we want to stay ahead of the Russians and Chinese? The Mig 1.42, and the SU-37 are fifth generation fighters and may, (if plasma stealth works) exceed the capabilities of all current American aircraft. Saving money by cutting defense budgets does no good after a countries military loses credibility or worse loses a war. Does anyone really take the Canadian Navy seriously?
We need to get the best price possible for weapons systems. But, we need to keep our military the most modern force in the world. And we need to have enough aircraft, ships, and other weapons to avoid being tested by hostile nations. I’m attaching an article that reference something that, while it happened a while ago shows the Russians aren’t about the lie down; this is a completely unacceptable event that demonstrates the need for maintaining a credible and alert force. http://​www​.wnd​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​.​a​s​p​?​A​R​T​I​C​L​E​_​I​D​=15

There’s quite a bit of daylight between the $60 million each price tag pushed by Lockmart, and the latest LRIP IV numbers. The F-35 faithful would like us to believe that at some hypothetical future time, under perfect manufacturing conditions, with no further technical problems, and with Lockmart producing 2,443 F-35’s for the US, and 700 for the international partners that this magic number can be reached.

Unfortunately the cost containment and technical record of the JSF to date is quite simply dismal, and when combined with trend of slashing defense budgets world wide, how likely is it that prices will fall for production F-35’s in the future?

As I’ve asked before, how is this the better deal vs. the F-22 that was sold last year to our political and military leadership?

For a single engine jet, that is a hefty sum of money. But certainly yes, we are now in F-22 price level, with endless extentions of F-35 IOC and creepy weight growth. I only hope F-14 will remain the heaviest Navy fighter ever… Maybe Sukhoi would be willing to sell some Su-50s to USAF in time.

In part to both Cocidius’ and Firefox’s recent posts,
there was some time ago a Boeing proposition to offer new F/A-18E’s for the Air Guard & Reserve at, supposedly, ~$50mil a piece,
it being suggested that the Super Hornet design was fully matured and production efficiencies could be met if the production line was kept open (and established subcontracted-parts manufacturers could be kept in business)…

Now, the Super Hornet is a twin-engine bird, with minimal stealth aspects,
yat are we to believe that Boeing would sell a twin-engined, non-stealth aircraft with the most modern avionics systems
for $10mil less
than what LM predicts it would sell a stealth-laden, massive-single-engine aircraft that’s supposed to be the cutting edge of aviation evolution?

Who has been lying the most here: Boeing or LM?

Time to think seriously about going back to the original F-22 buy, and cutting back on the F-35 program! Plus, we would have more of the next generation aircraft (F-22’s) in the air years sooner than when F-35’s would be ready, and the cost would not be that big a difference!

In Air to air combat the F-22 is superior than the F-35. I cant see any good reason not to replace about 500 F-35A’s with F-22A’s. Both come from Lockheed Martin so whats the big deal?

To the poster “BradM”

You wrote: “In Air to air combat the F-22 is superior than the F-35. I cant see any good reason not to replace about 500 F-35A’s with F-22A’s. Both come from Lockheed Martin so whats the big deal?”

That’s PRECISELY because the F-35 is already more expensive than the F-22, and growing more expensive every day, too, like an overclocked taximeter!
If YOU were a car dealer, would you rather have your customers buy your CHEAPEST cars, or your MOST EXPENSIVE cars?


Common component logistics helps with the overall life of the airframe cost…upkeep and spare parts availability as well as the costs…the F35 will drop in price…the more we cut the count the more the cost will go up…F/A 18 E/F are still plenty able to take the mission for decades to come

Well, considering the fact that Boeing took the last contract on SuperHornets for 47 mil USD a piece, I guess LM is the one whose price estimates would be.. Well.. A “bit” underestimated.

Let’s not forget the problem with North Korea !

Nice to read all valid comments. The F-35 may turn out to be another stim package. It’s a nice toy with a big price tag. The project was made too big to fail, it’s a plane too expensive to build in mass numbers, it will be too costly to operate, and too costly to maintain or lose (so it won’t be flown often). Further, what’s its mission role. Too noisy and vulnerable to operate from field units, too vulnerable for counterinsurgency ops etc. etc. Time and money would have been better spent building a low earth orbit capable fighter.

Perhaps if anything,
it should’ve been purchased as an F-117-like replacement: the platform you use for the first days/weeks of a war,
then when your adversary has no credible airpower and no air defense whatsover (like Iraq and A-stan), then you revert to the less-costly bomb trucks…

We might’ve been (or still be) further off only buying a few/several hundred F-35s
(not close to a couple thousand like we plan now),
then using new-build airframes of the latest-tech packed into F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s to be the bomb trucks and CAS types after all the “first day of war” threats have been eliminated by our stealth jets.

By the time we get our desired number of F-35s to all the units and nations slated to receive them
(by 2030, even?),
UCAV tech and more precision weapons of all sizes will be much more advanced than they are now,
to the point that UCAVs, with secure datalinks to rear bases,
could perform all the “first day of war” operations in high threat environments…
Why send a $100M+ F-35 when you could send twice as many UCAVs that each cost half as much?

too bad multipurpose manufacturing doesn’t work with specialty fighters.

F-35 LRIP-4 Costs Detailed —

Hell that is so last week — this week they have to redesign the electrical system again.


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