WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's most recent estimate for the F-35 joint strike fighter's total acquisition cost shows a drop of $12.1 billion since 2014, according to a government watchdog.

As of March 2016, the Pentagon's estimate for the total acquisition cost of the F-35 program is $379 billion, down from $391 billion projected in 2014, the Government Accountability Office's Michael Sullivan noted in his March 23 written testimony before the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces. This includes research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E), procurement and military construction funds.

Not including inflation, that translates into an approximately $7 billion drop, according to F-35 jJoint pProgram oOffice chief Lt. Gen Christopher Bogdan.

"We are coming down the learning curve and the price curve a little steeper," Bogdan said March 23 after the hearing. "We are coming down the price curve faster than we anticipated years ago."

The Pentagon will officially announce the new estimate on March 24 as part of the annual release of its Selected Acquisition Report.

The JPO and contractor Lockheed Martin are currently negotiating about $15 billion worth of contracts for the ninth and tenth batches of F-35s. The JPO is "very close" to finalizing an agreement for lot nine, but lot ten 10 may take longer, Bogdan said.

By law, Bogdan can not sign a contract for the lot ten aircraft until Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James certifies that the Air Force F-35As delivered during fiscal 2018 will have the final Block 3F software, the version needed for full warfighting capability. Before certification, Bogdan wants to fix an issue with the stability of the latest software version and finalize a plan to speed up weapons testing, he said.

Bogdan said he hopes to reach an agreement for lots nine and ten by the end of April.

"I think sometime toward the end of April [James] will be ready to do that, and that probably syncs up with lot 9 and 10," Bogdan said. "I am timing all of this to come together in April."

Email: lseligman@defensenews.com

Twitter: @laraseligman

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