As defense-aerospace.com reported, the U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin finalized the eighth F-35 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP-8) contract for 43 F-35 Lightning II airframes valued at $4.7 billion, including $0.5 billion of Advance Procurement funding that was announced at the time of award.
The 43 F-35 include 29 jets for the United States and 14 for five international countries. This agreement reflects an average airframes unit cost approximately 3.5% lower than the LRIP-7 contract signed in 2013 and a 57% reduction since LRIP-1.
Thus, LRIP-8 per variant airframe unit prices (not including Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine cost!) is as follows:
- 19 F-35A Multirole fighter, CTOL (Conventional Take-off and Landing) for U.S. Air Force – $94.8 million per unit; (http://usairforc.blogspot.ru/2014/11/f-35a-lightning-ii.html)
- 6 F-35B Multirole fighter, STOVL (Short Take-off and Vertical Landing) for U.S. Marine Corps – $102.0 million per unit; (http://usnavalaircraft.blogspot.ru/2014/11/f-35b-lightning-ii.html)
- 4 F-35C Multirole fighter, CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) for U.S. Navy (3) and U.S. Marine Corps (1) – $115.7 million per unit. (http://usnavalaircraft.blogspot.ru/2014/11/f-35c-lightning-ii.html)
Furthermore, the LRIP 8 contract provides for the production of the first 2 F-35A for Israel and the first 4 F-35A for Japan, along with 2 F-35A for Norway and 2 F-35A for Italy.
The United Kingdom will receive 4 F-35B (STOVL). The contract also funds manufacturing-support equipment as well as ancillary mission equipment.
Lockheed Martin will begin delivering LRIP 8 units in early spring 2016. Once production of LRIP 8 aircraft is completed, more than 200 F-35s will be in operation by eight nations.
Thus, as a result of American allies will be able to explore new sophisticated stealth machines and test them in real conditions.
I guess the United Kingdom is the most interested operators of all allies to the F-35 contract. By the way, Gareth Jennings (IHS, London) says the UK already has two operational test and evaluation (BK-1 and BK-2) and one training aircraft (BK-3) delivered and flying out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida (USA).
The order of 4 F-35B marks an initial buy from the MoD’s Main Gate 4 acquisition approval process for 14 jets to equip the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) 617 Squadron, which is scheduled to stand-up as the UK’s first operational F-35B unit in 2016.
In 2018, 617 Sqn will transfer to its future home station at RAF Marham in the UK, and in December of that year the UK will declare initial operating capability – land (IOC – Land) for its F-35B force.
The second unit – the FAA’s 809 ‘Immortals’ Naval Air Squadron – will be created ahead of the commencement of sea trials aboard the future HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in 2018, with the full operating capability (land and maritime) being declared in 2023.
The exact numbers of aircraft are yet to be decided, but with the UK having so far committed itself to just 48 F-35 it is likely that the final order will be substantially less than the 138 programme of record.