The Pentagon is preparing to begin negotiations with Lockheed Martin [LMT] for the next three lots of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, according to a recent government solicitation.

A notice posted Feb. 13 on FedBizOpps states that the Defense Department intends to solicit several contracts with Lockheed Martin for Lots 15 through 17 for the F-35. Tentatively, Lot 15 would include 116 F-35A Air Force variants, 29 F-35B aircraft for the Marine Corps, and 24 F-35C Navy variants. Lot 16 would include 101 F-35As, 32 F-35Bs, and 24 F-35Cs, while Lot 17 would include 98 F-35As, 37 F-35Bs and 24 F-35Cs.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II at the 2018 Paris Air Show. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Those quantities are subject to congressional authorizers and appropriators, as well as non-U.S. DoD participants or foreign military sales (FMS) customers, per the notice. The response date is March 13.

Lockheed Martin has committed to reducing the cost of an F-35 aircraft to $80 million by 2020. In December 2018, the company said an F-35A cost $89.2 million (Defense Daily,  Dec. 20, 2018).

Over 350 F-35 aircraft have been delivered to U.S. and global customers as of December 2018. Lockheed Martin delivered 91 aircraft in 2018, including 54 U.S. jets, 21 aircraft for international customers and 16 FMS aircraft. The program formally entered the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) phase in December, and anticipates reaching full-rate production by late 2019 (Defense Daily, Dec. 6, 2018).

Company officials said in a January earnings call that it expects to deliver 131 jets in 2019, more in 2020, and over 160 in 2021, and is working with nearly 400 Joint Strike Fighters in backlog (Defense Daily, Jan. 29).

Meanwhile, the Air Force is reportedly planning to request funds for up to eight Boeing [BA]-made F-15X aircraft in the fiscal year 2020 budget, with the intent of replacing its aging F-15C/D Eagle fleet. Bloomberg first reported Feb. 19 that the service plans to initially procure the eight initial aircraft as part of a five-year effort to buy up to 80 F-15X jets.

Lockheed Martin President and CEO Marillyn Hewson said in the January earnings call that Air Force senior leaders personally told her any future F-15X purchases would not impact the F-35 program.