WASHINGTON: Pentagon acquisition czar Ellen Lord’s statement says it: “This is a historic milestone for the F-35 Enterprise, and marks the largest procurement in the history of the Department. The $34B agreement for F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lots 12-14 will see the delivery of 478 F-35 aircraft, 157 for Lot 12, in support of our U.S. Military services, our Partner Nations, and our Foreign Military Sales customers.”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the biggest conventional weapons program in history has just set the record for a single deal in, well, probably, any country at any time. For perspective, the entire Australian defense budget for 2019 came in at about $27.52 billion US.
Here are some of the more important details from today’s announcement. Top of the list is the fact that the flyaway price of the F-35A will drop below $80 million one year earlier than planned in Low Rate of Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 13. Lord said in the statement that the Pentagon will reap an estimated 8.8 percent in savings from Lot 11 to Lot 12 for F-35A’s, and an average of 15 percent reduction “across all variants from Lot 11 to Lot 14.”
On a more somber note, the Japanese have declared complete their investigation into the April 9 crash of Maj. Akinori Hosomi, the first F-35 pilot to die in the program. His remains were found last Wednesday and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force said in a statement today that “the pilot most likely was in a state of ‘spatial disorientation’ (in a state of losing a sense of equilibrium) and did not realize it.”
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said last week F-35 pilots will be re-educated about spatial disorientation and get more training about gravity-induced loss of consciousness (GLOC). The Japanese F-35 fleet remains grounded.