Pentagon strikes new F-35 deal with Lockheed after Trump involvement

The Trump administration announced Friday that the Pentagon has reached a tentative deal with Lockheed Martin for the purchase of 90 F-35 jets at the lowest price in the program’s history – saving the government millions, officials said.

Trump, as president-elect, made headlines in December when he tweeted that the costs for the F-35 program were “out of control.”

This led to meetings and negotiations with the defense mega-contractor, apparently culminating in Friday’s nearly $9 billion agreement.

Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, called the contract a “good and fair” deal for taxpayers.

“We continue to work with Industry to drive costs out of the program,” he said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin, in a statement, acknowledged Trump’s involvement spurred them to drive down the cost.

“President Trump’s personal involvement in the F-35 program accelerated the negotiations and sharpened our focus on driving down the price. The agreement was reached in a matter of weeks and represents significant savings over previous contracts. This is a good deal for the American taxpayer, our country, our company and our suppliers,” the statement said.

The Pentagon announced the deal would bring the cost per jet for the F-35A below $100 million for the first time — to $95 million, marking a 7.3 percent drop in price from the last order.

Officials estimated, based on the per-plane price of the most recent F-35 order, the new agreement represents a $728 million reduction.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared it “another big win that the president has delivered on for U.S. taxpayers.”

Reuters, which first reported on the deal, noted that the price per jet has been steadily declining for years as production ramps up, and that defense analysts have said the discount was in line with what had been cited by Lockheed and Pentagon officials for months.

The contract would order up 55 jets for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — and the rest for a range of U.S. allies. Deliveries would begin in early 2018.

The Defense Department said the F-35 program supports more than 1,300 suppliers in 45 states, directly and indirectly employing over 146,000 workers.