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Pentagon, Lockheed reach agreement on 8th batch of F-35 jets

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Six F-35A test aircraft stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, California. A Lockheed Martin photo

WASHINGTON (BNS): The US Department of Defence and Lockheed Martin have reached an agreement in principle for the eighth production lot of 43 F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.

A contract on the Low-Rate Initial Production lot 8 (LRIP 8) is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks, Lockheed Martin announced on Monday.

The contract is for fiscal year 2014 with deliveries beginning in 2016.

While cost details will be released once the contract is finalised, the average unit price for all three variants of the F-35 in the LRIP 8 will approximately be 3.6 percent lower than the previous contract, the company said.

Both sides had been negotiating the deal since long which was stalled following a fire aboard an aircraft on June 23 this year. The entire fleet of about 100 F-35s was grounded following the incident.

The new contract will include 29 JSFs for the US, including 19 F-35As, six F-35Bs and four F-35Cs; the first two F-35As for Israel; the first four for Japan; two for Norway and two for Italy. UK will receive four F-35Bs.

The contract also funds manufacturing-support equipment as well as ancillary mission equipment.

The LRIP 8 aircraft join 166 F-35s contracted under LRIPs 1-7.

As of October 24, 2014, 115 F-35s, including test aircraft, have been delivered from Lockheed's production facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

The US, eight Partner nations, and Foreign Military Sales participants have announced plans to procure more than 3,100 F-35 aircraft over the life of the programme.

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.

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