February 25, 2016 / 6:05 PM / in 2 years

Reductions in Pentagon's planned F-35 orders not significant: Lockheed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon’s plans to defer some orders for F-35 fighter jets over the next five years should not have a significant impact on efforts to lower the jet’s costs, said Jeff Babione, who manages the $391 billion program for Lockheed Martin Corp.

Babione told reporters at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando that the company and its key suppliers were continuing broad-based efforts to lower the cost of the new radar-evading warplane.

Lockheed is continuing negotiations with the Pentagon’s F-35 program office about a ninth batch of jets, Babione said. That deal would mean that the overall cost of the planes had been reduced by over 60 percent since the program’s start in 2001.

The U.S. Defense Department plans to spend $56.3 billion for 404 F-35 fighter jets over the next five years, deferring the purchase of about 24 jets until after fiscal 2021.

Babione said Lockheed could save several billion dollars by starting a multiyear block buy agreement with international partners, but said details were still being worked with those countries and the United States.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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