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F-35 Group Discount: It might be cheaper to build F-35 strike fighters in large batches of one variant at a time, said Shay Assad, who oversees defense pricing for the Pentagon. "We're literally in the middle of that right now. . . . That's precisely one of the things we're examining" as part of his office's "should cost" analysis of the F-35, he told defense reporters Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Lockheed Martin designed the F-35 production line to accommodate variant changes as aircraft come down the line, but changes have hampered the learning curve, and company officials have cited variant shifts as a potential cost issue in Lot 5 production, the contract for which is now under negotiation. Assad said "we're getting much more precise [information] about . . . the commonality" between variants, and "how we should sequence that" in production. He said the Pentagon will have a much better handle on the cost of variant change after Lot 4, which is "the first time we've had all three [variants] in production." He noted: "We're expected to come in with our analysis" in 60 to 90 days.