Lockheed in $4 billion U.S. F-35 fighter deal

Fri Dec 9, 2011 6:58pm EST
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By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N: Quote) is being awarded a $4 billion fixed-price U.S. Navy contract for 30 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the fifth batch of low-rate initial production, the Defense Department said on Friday.

The deal would provide 21 conventional models for the Air Force, six carrier variants for the Navy and three short-takeoff and vertical landing versions for the Marine Corps, a notice in the Pentagon's daily contract digest said.

Details of the deal have not been worked out, said Michael Rein, a company spokesman, referring to the government announcement as an "undefinitized contract action" subject to further negotiation.

"This is welcome news for both Lockheed Martin and our many F-35 suppliers and will help ensure we continue to meet production schedules outlined by the program," he said by email.

The Pentagon currently plans to buy more than 2,440 F-35 aircraft in three separate models for the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

It is the costliest Pentagon purchase in history, at a projected cost of $382.5 billion through 2035. The F-35 has been developed with eight foreign partners to replace at least 13 types of aircraft, including Lockheed's F-16, for 11 nations initially.

The Defense Department already has restructured the F-35 program twice in recent years. The fifth production batch fell to 30 from a previously planned 42 because more retrofits and changes have been required than had been projected.

(Reporting by Jim Wolf; editing by Carol Bishopric)