How much does the F-35 Cost?

Producing, Operating and Supporting a 5th Generation Fighter

Production Costs

The F-35 Lightning II was designed to be an affordable 5th Generation fighter, taking advantage of economies of scale and commonalities between the three variants. Since the first F-35 was built production costs have dropped approximately 60 percent.

The most recently contracted unit costs for Low Rate Initial Production lot 9 (not including the engine) are:

  • F-35A: $102.1 million/jet
  • F-35B: $131.6 million/jet
  • F-35C: $132.2 million/jet

The U.S. Government and F-35 industrial team continue to collaborate to further reduce F-35 costs for future production lots. 

In 2014, the DoD announced an industry-led effort called “Blueprint for Affordability” and expanded the effort in 2016 from a $1.8 billion to a $4 billion savings initiative. Also in 2016, it announced the Sustainment Cost Reduction Initiative to save an additional $1 billion through 2022. The goal of these programs is to drive the cost of an F-35A to less than $85 million in 2019, where it will be equivalent to, or less, than any 4th-generation fighter.

Concurrency

The F-35 program includes an overlap of flight test and initial production known as concurrency. Concurrency allows for a steady production and supply chain pace and faster delivery of the F-35 to the warfighter.

Because of concurrency, early production aircraft require some retrofits to implement changes based on flight test discoveries. As the flight test program matures, the risk of new discoveries declines. As risk declines, fewer retrofits are required in later production lots. In June 2013, Department of Defense concurrency cost estimates dropped by $500 million for the first five production lots due to more accurate estimating methods and proactive efforts to make updates more efficient.

Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office share concurrency costs through the first four production lots. Beginning with Low Rate Initial Production Lot 5, Lockheed Martin took on a greater share of known concurrency costs.

Operating and Support Costs

Just as program maturity has led to more reliable concurrency estimates, increased knowledge of F-35 operations have resulted in more reliable operating and support costs. In August 2013, the F-35 Joint Program Office reported a 22 percent decrease in operating cost estimates across the 55-year life of the Lightning II. Estimates include expenses like spare parts, repairs and fuel. Cost estimates are expected to continue to decline as the program matures further and operating and support affordability initiatives are implemented.