Lockheed Martin is building four F-35 fighters per month, even though its manufacturing plant has the capacity to produce 17.
With the program under an intense spotlight — in the wake of President-elect Trump's disparaging tweetstorm this week about F-35 costs being “out of control” — the company's best hope is that once production accelerates, the price tag for the aircraft will stabilize at about $85 million a piece. The current unit price is about $111 million.
“The rate we're building is insufficient,” said Robert Weiss, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
It is economics 101 that a low production rate keeps prices high, but for the F-35, the implications are even more far reaching. All the current buyers of the aircraft — the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, as well as non-U.S. customers — are modernizing their fighter fleets, and the longer it takes for them to buy the current generation of the F-35, the longer they will wait, and the more they will have to pay, for new upgrades and improvements that are planned once the program is in full-rate production, Weiss said at a Foreign Policy Initiative conference in Washington, D.C.