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Full F-35 Production Finally Given the Green Light

I’m a relatively big fan of the F-35, usually known as the “Joint-Strike Fighter.”  As a fifth-generation aircraft, it could become not just the United States’ military of aircraft of choice for the next 25 years, but interested friendly governments like the U.K., France, Germany and Israel could pretty much make it the NATO / Allied aircraft which replaces the hangers full of F-16’s still out there.

There’s a lot to go before the JSF officially joins the fleet in 2015, when the Marine Corps wants them to replace aging F-18s.

Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and the Pentagon on Tuesday said they reached an agreement for 71 more F-35 fighter jets, with lower pricing allowing the U.S. government to buy all the planes it had planned despite budget cuts that took effect in March.

The agreement, which was first reported by Reuters on Monday, covers 36 jets in a sixth batch, with each warplane to cost about 4 percent less than the previous lot, and 35 planes in a seventh batch, also at a 4 percent discount, Lockheed and the Pentagon’s F-35 program office said in a statement.

The statement did not provide an overall value for the two contracts, but analysts say they will be worth over $7 billion.

The agreement is good news for Lockheed, which generates about 15 percent of its revenues from the F-35 program, and its key suppliers: Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and Britain’s BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L). At a projected procurement and development cost of $392 billion, it is the Pentagon’s biggest arms program.

The government is negotiating a separate contract with engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), and an agreement is also expected there soon.

The lower cost of the planes, coupled with lower prices on a number of other smaller contracts, “will allow the Pentagon to buy all the aircraft originally planned, including those that were in jeopardy of being cut” as a result of mandatory budget cuts imposed on the Pentagon in March, the statement said.

It is unknown yet if the Pentagon will give the go-ahead for the full order of F-35’s.  That’s said to be nearly 2,500 to 3,000 planes, and will be used by all branches of the United States military, with three different variations to fit the particular needs of carrier groups, air bases and strike forces needs.

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  • mogul

    How can another Low Rate Initial Production contract be Full production? Also France and Germany are not participants in the Joint F35 project and have their own modern fighters in production.