Trump touts $600 million in F-35 savings, an amount similar to a cut that was already planned

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

President Donald Trump touted a $600-million cost reduction for the F-35 fighter jet program in remarks Monday. But that amount appears to be similar to a previously planned price slash by the Department of Defense.

Trump took credit for the reduction, telling reporters that the cut applies to 90 planes.

“I was able to get $600 million approximately off those planes,” he said. “I think that was a great achievement. So I appreciate Lockheed Martin for being so responsive.”

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is produced in batches, and the price per plane is expected to decrease with each lot. The next batch, known in military jargon as low-rate initial production 10, is expected to contain 90 planes. Negotiations are still ongoing to determine pricing for these planes.


Defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. is the plane’s builder.

In December, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35 joint program office, said the price per plane in this upcoming batch could decrease 6% to 7%.

The F-35 comes in three variants to suit the needs of the Air Force, Marines and the Navy, with separate prices for each. In the previous batch of planes, the most common F-35A variant was priced at $102.1 million per jet, with the F-35B at $131.6 million per jet, and the F-35C at $132.2 million per jet.

With this in mind, Bogdan’s expectation of a 6% to 7% reduction per plane would put the total cut for all 90 planes — which includes all three variants — between about $576 million and $672 million.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that the company appreciated Trump’s comments “on the positive progress we’ve made on the F-35 program.”

“We share his commitment to delivering this critical capability for our men and women in uniform at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers,” the firm said.

When asked whether the $600 million cut mentioned by Trump was in addition to the already-planned cut, the company declined to comment on “ongoing discussions,” and referred that question to the F-35 joint program office.


The joint program office, in turn, said “negotiations are ongoing and we expect to get a good deal for the taxpayers and for the warfighter.”

Last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered a review of the F-35 program and its costs, and also asked for a parallel review of whether the capabilities of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet could compare with that of the F-35C.