Quantity is Life

The F-35’s unit costs are very much at the mercy of the number built, said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program manager. Some 80 percent of the F-35’s price is “economic quantity” and only 20 percent, at best, are “things I can do to improve efficiency” on the production line, she told reporters during a company-sponsored media event on June 9 in Arlington, Va. The programs of record for the United States, its F-35 partners, and foreign military sales customers now total more than 3,000 aircraft, and a rising number of countries are moving to fulfill those requirements, said Martin. The figure is undercounting some: Korea’s order for 40 is not yet final, and Israel has booked only 19 of the 75 it’s allowed to buy. “Any country using” F-15s, F/A-18s, or F-16s is a potential candidate for F-35, said Martin, and “there are 4,500 F-16s out there” around the world that will eventually require replacement. “We will sell to any country the US government allows us to sell to,” she added, repeating a goal that by the end of this decade, the government and Lockheed Martin plan to get the cost of the F-35 to a level comparable with fourth generation fighters of today.