Lockheed Awarded $1.9B For One-Year F-35 Sustainment

F-35 Adir
Credit: Israeli Air Force

The F-35 Joint Program Office awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.9 billion contract on Jan. 6 to maintain the global Lightning II fleet, support training and expand capacity for producing spares and repairing components. 

The annual award to the F-35’s prime contractor follows a $1.4 billion contract in 2018 and $1.15 billion contract in 2019 for global sustainment services. The amount fluctuates along with investments in repair depots and fleet growth. 

“In 2020, we will continue to optimize and advance the sustainment system. We are confident F-35 sustainment costs will be equal to or less than legacy jets,” says Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager for the F-35 program. 

Lockheed has committed to lowering the cost per flight hour of the F-35A to $25,000 by 2025. The U.S. Air Force paid about $44,000 per flight hour to operate the aircraft in 2018. Some defense officials, including the Pentagon’s former head of cost evaluation, have said Lockheed’s cost target is unrealistic. But others, including the commander of the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center, do not rule out the possibility. 

Lockheed’s announcement calls the award an “annualized” contract. The company had proposed converting the sustainment program into a five-year, fixed-price contract, but it appears the government rejected the proposal. 

Lockheed has delivered 490 F-35s since 2009, including 134 in 2019, with the fleet surpassing more than 240,000 cumulative flight hours.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


What is the current level of flight hours per plane per year?
If, for 2018, 1.4 bil $ and 44,000 $/hr, then a bit over 30,000 hours for a fleet. This seems too low for a fleet of say, 300 plus. Is the $1.4 billion a fraction of the cost of flying?