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Pentagon makes a deal for 90 F-35 fighters

F-35 jet
An F-35 Lightning II fighter jet prepares to land. (U.S. Air Force Photo / Alex R. Lloyd)

The Pentagon has struck a deal with Lockheed Martin for the purchase of 90 F-35 stealth fighter jets at a cost that adds up to nearly $9 billion, finishing up negotiations highlighted by President Donald Trump’s threats to walk away.

It’s the latest order in what’s expected to amount to nearly $400 billion in sales for Lockheed Martin, involving thousands of the jets.

This round, known as Lot 10, marks the first time that the per-jet purchase price for an F-35A has been below $100 mlilion. Lockheed Martin said Lot 10 reflects a $728 million reduction in the total price, compared with the previous lot.

The cost reduction is basically in line with what Lockheed Martin and Pentagon officials were expecting, even before Trump started complaining about the program last December.

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Air Force One, F-35 deals face Pentagon review

The current Air Force One planes were built more than a quarter-century ago. (White House Photo)
The current Air Force One planes were built more than a quarter-century ago. (White House Photo)

President Donald Trump’s defense secretary, James Mattis, has ordered reviews of the multibillion-dollar programs to acquire new Air Force One jets and more F-35 fighter jets – two programs that sparked his boss’ ire in the run-up to his inauguration.

“Yesterday Secretary Mattis directed separate reviews of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said today in a statement quoted by The Hill. “The purpose of these reviews is to inform programmatic and budgetary decisions, recognizing the critical importance of each of these acquisition programs.”

Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for the F-35 program, which has experienced cost overruns and production delays. The Boeing Co. is working with the Air Force on the specifications for two replacement Air Force One jets to be used for presidential flights.

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Boeing works with Trump on jet cost concerns

Dennis Muilenburg
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg speaks with reporters after meeting with Donald Trump. (Worldwide Trends via YouTube)

After meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg says he’s making a “personal commitment” to keep the cost of the next two Air Force One jets below $4 billion.

“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” Muilenburg told reporters on Dec. 21.

Trump threatened in a Dec. 6 tweet to have the Air Force One deal canceled because “costs are out of control, more than $4 billion.” But since then, Muilenburg and other executives have smoothed over the dispute. Wednesday’s meeting in Palm Beach appeared to cement the rapprochement with Trump.

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Boeing and Lockheed protest bomber snub

Image: Northrop Grumman ad
Northrop Grumman has been given an Air Force contract to build the Long Range Strike Bomber – a concept that was touted in a Super Bowl ad. (Northrop Grumman photo)

Boeing and Lockheed Martin say they’ve filed a formal protest of last month’s Pentagon decision to award a bomber contract worth as much as $80 billion to a competitor, Northrop Grumman.

The stealthy Long Range Strike Bomber is scheduled for deployment in the 2020s as a replacement for the Air Force’s decades-old B-1 and B-52 bombers. The Boeing-Lockheed team and Northrop Grumman both put in proposals, and both teams saw the contract as crucial for their long-term military business.

The Air Force made its selection using a mostly classified process, and announced the award to Northrop Grumman on Oct. 27. In today’s statement, Boeing and Lockheed Martin said the process was “fundamentally flawed.”

“The cost evaluation performed by the government did not properly reward the contractors’ proposals to break the upward-spiraling historical cost curves of defense acquisitions, or properly evaluate the relative or comparative risk of the competitors’ ability to perform, as required by the solicitation,” the companies said.

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