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Industry partners join forces to curtail escalating cost of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

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WASHINGTON DC (BNS): To curb the escalating price of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the programme's leading industry partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems have signed an agreement to invest up to $170 million for cost cutting measures.

The agreement is aimed at reducing the price of an F-35 Lightning II 5th generation fighter to the equivalent of today's 4th generation fighters by the end of the decade, according to the Pentagon.

The investment, to be made between 2014 and 2016, will help reduce the cost of each F-35 jet to below $80 million by 2019.

Only after a reduction of cost, will industry recoup the investment plus profit with the accrued savings from the cost reduction initiatives. From 2016-2018, the US Government has the option to invest additional money if the initial cost reduction initiatives are successful, Lockheed Martin said in a statement.

"This is a significant change in business approach within the F-35 programme. Industry partners will make an upfront investment into cost cutting measures that the government and taxpayers will reap benefits from by buying F-35s at a lower cost.

"By 2019, we expect that the F-35 with its unprecedented 5th generation capability will be nearly equal in cost to any other fighter on the market, but with far more advanced capability," Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 Programme Executive Officer, said.

The companies have identified a total of 58 projects where parts of the plane may be redesigned or materials changed to generate long-term cost reductions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Touted as the ultimate stealth-attack aircraft able to evade radar detection, the F-35 programme has been marred by repeated cost overruns, recurring technical problems and delivery delays, and is running seven years behind schedule.

It has been pegged as the costliest weapons programme in Pentagon's history.

The programme's total price tag is estimated at nearly USD 400 billion for 2,443 aircraft, with each plane costing a whopping USD 160 million.

The US military has grounded the entire fleet of around 100 F-35s delivered so far following a fire aboard an aircraft in Florida on June 23 even as an investigation into the incident is on.

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