U.S. military leaders spoke out on the capabilities and operational readiness of Lockheed Martin (LMT) F-35 fighter jets during a congressional hearing Thursday. Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who is the executive officer of the F-35 program, said that work was in progress to dramatically decrease the price of the jet amid President Donald Trump’s disapproval over the costs.
“An F-35A model costs approximately $94.5 million. It is the first time an F-35 has been below $100 million to purchase. We believe we are on track to continue to reduce the price of the F-35 such that in FY-19, with an engine, including all fees, the F-35A model will cost between $80 - $85 million,” Bogdan said.
Late last month, Trump announced that the administration had saved the government approximately $600 million after a cost evaluation was initiated by the newly appointed Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, praised the F-35's domination over its opponents during Thursday's testimony, while U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris spoke out about F-35A's performance.
"The maintainers continue to produce combat-ready aircraft at impressive levels. The team deployed 13 F-35As [to Red Flag] and executed 207 of 226 planned sorties, with zero maintenance non-deliveries, and maintained greater than a 90 percent mission-capable rate," Harris said.
The F-35 comes in three configurations — the A-model that is used by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. allies, a B-model that is capable of handling short takeoffs and vertical landings for the Marine Corps and the British navy, and the carrier-variant F-35C jets for the U.S. Navy.
Last month, Trump told reporters that he was grateful to Lockheed Martin for working on the cost of the company’s fighter jets after he raised concerns.
Lockheed staff "appreciate President Trump’s comments this morning on the positive progress we’ve made on the F-35 program" and "share his commitment to delivering this critical capability for our men and women in uniform at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers," company spokeswoman Maureen Shumann wrote in an emailed statement to reporters.