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An F-35A Lightning II banks right while flying over the Duke Field runway Aug. 6, 2014. Air Force photo by TSgt. Sam King.

International F-35 executives meeting in Norway are planning to organize a three-year “block buy” of the fighter starting in 2018, which could bundle contracts for more than 400 aircraft and save “double digits” of percent on production, Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall said Friday. Speaking with reporters via a telecon from Oslo, Kendall said the arrangement would be similar to a multiyear procurement, and would require congressional approval, but he said, “We’re fairly optimistic” Congress will agree. The idea is to bundle US buys with partner and foreign military sales purchases, committing to a certain production rate so that “industry [can] plan with some confidence” to acquire materials and staffing at the greatest efficiency. “By ’18, we get to a [production] number that makes it much more attractive to start talking about economies of scale,” Kendall said. The partners are also looking at offering those who commit early to their buy a “premium … for staying in the program, as planned.” Countries that lock-in certain production numbers would “get a financial benefit from that.” Partners Canada and Denmark have yet to commit to their planned purchases.