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The Pentagon is getting a nice fat discount on its next order of super-expensive F-35s
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Defense has a "handshake" agreement with Lockheed Martin Co to cut 8.8 percent from the price of its latest order of F-35A fighter jet, shaving a year from the time frame in which each aircraft will cost less than $80 million, a Pentagon official said on Monday.
The Pentagon said over three years the agreement will be worth $34 billion for 478 F-35 fighter jets. It is preliminary and a final deal is expected to be sealed in August for the 12th batch of jets, one of the most expensive aircraft ever produced.
The preliminary agreement details the first year, and lays out agreed upon options for two additional years. The options are there because official purchases cannot be made until the U.S. Congress approves an annual budget for those years.
This year's agreement will lower the cost of each F-35A, the most common version of the aircraft, to $81.35 million, Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord said, down from $89.2 million under a deal inked in August 2018.
Under the options covering the second and third years of the purchase, the price of each jet will drop below $80 million, Lord said. In those later years production would be around 160 jets per year.
The F-35 program has long aimed at growing the fleet to more than 3,000 jets and bringing the unit price of the F-35A below $80 million through efficiencies gained by ordering larger quantifies.
"I am proud to state that this agreement has achieved an estimated 8.8% savings from Lot 11 to Lot 12 F-35A's, and an estimated average of 15%" reduction across all variants from Lot 11 to Lot 14, Lord said in the statement. That savings exceeded expectations in a RAND Corp study.
"The unit price for all three F-35 variants was reduced and the agreement will include an F-35A unit cost below $80 million in Lot 13, exceeding the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin's long-standing cost reduction commitment earlier than planned," the Lockheed Martin F-35 program general manager Greg Ulmer said in a statement.
While being a major part of Lockheed's revenue, the F-35 has recently been holding competitions to find less expensive subcontractors to help control costs.
The new pricing could encourage more foreign customers to join the F-35 program. Lockheed executives have said that any country with an F-16 jet, the predecessor to the F-35, is a potential customer. This could put the market size at about 4000 jets, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson recently told an investor conference.
Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, the head of the Pentagon's F-35 office, has testified to Congress, that "future potential foreign military sales customers include Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain and Poland."
Foreign military sales like those of the F-35 are considered government-to-government deals where the Pentagon acts as an intermediary between the defense contractor and a foreign government.
Other U.S. allies have been eyeing a purchase of the stealthy jet including Finland, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
WATCH NEXT: F-35s Conduct A Mission In 'Beast Mode' In Afghanistan
Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.