Editor’s Note: Here’s some good news coming from the F-35 program. According to Jeff Babione, Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 Program manager, the cost of the aircraft is going to drop significantly in the next three years, to the tune of approximately $15 Million dollars per copy–at least for the Air Force’s F-35A CTOL variant. The carrier-based F-35C and STOVL F-35B , because of their more robust, heavier structure and smaller quantities, were not included in the cost assessment.

Despite its history of cost overruns, the Pentagon’s 5th-Generation fighter program is on course to realize significant savings in coming years, the program manager said this week.

Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for the F-35 program, told reporters Tuesday that the cost of the F-35A — the Air Force variant of the aircraft — was expected to drop from nearly $100 million per plane to about $85 million by 2019, thanks to efficiencies and cost-cutting manufacturing technologies.

The B and C variants designed for the Marine Corps and Navy, which are heavier and purchased in smaller quantities, are not included in the 2019 goal.

A Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II pulls up to a tanker to refuel. (U.S. Air Force photo)

By contrast, the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft cost about $60 million apiece.

“We think that price with this capability will be unbeatable,” Babione said. “You’ll be able to afford a fifth-generation airplane for what would be a fourth-generation price for anything else offered in the free world. The Lockheed/BAE/Northrop Grumman contractor team is hyper-focused on reducing the price of the airplane.”

With the Air Force set to reach F-35 initial operating capability by the end of this year, Babione said Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas, was busy assembling the largest number of airplanes the program had ever produced at one time. At any given time, he said, there are some 115 F-35s in stages of major sub-assembly.

The original article in its entirety can be viewed at Military.com right here.

(Featured photo courtesy of JSF.mil)