- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2012

The Pentagon announced Friday it has reached an agreement with Lockheed Martin to purchase 22 more F-35 “Lightning II” Joint Strike Fighters.

The agreement came after days of tough negotiations, Pentagon press Secretary George Little told reporters.

“It’s been a long journey, but I’m pleased we’ve achieved an agreement that is beneficial to the government and Lockheed Martin,” Navy Vice Adm. Dave Venlet, executive officer of the F-35 program, said in a press release.

The F-35 program has come under criticism, as the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program ever. It is a decade behind schedule and costs nearly twice its original estimate.

The program took a leap forward last week, when the Marine Corps introduced the first F-35 fighter squadron at an air base in Yuma, Ariz., and its first operational variant — an F-35 that can take off from short runways and land like a helicopter.

It will likely be ready to deploy to the Marine air station in Iwakuni, Japan, in 2017.

The newly announced purchase will include 22 F-35A conventional take-off and landing variants for the Air Force, three F-35B Marine Corps variants and seven F-35C aircraft carrier variants for the Navy.

The U.S. has promised to buy 2,443 of the F-35s, which cost more than $140 million each. So far, Lockheed has delivered 48, according to the press release.

“We remain committed to working with our government and international customers, and we continue to see excellent production performance,” said Orlando Carvalho, general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program.

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