DALLAS — The Department of Defense this week awarded contracts valued at over $2.01 billion to Lockheed Martin Corp. to continue making and maintaining the F-35 fighter jet fleet for the U.S. and its allies through 2023.

Under the contracts, the Maryland-based company will continue to provide logistics support, maintenance and training, among other services, for more than 3,000 F-35s. Both Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon emphasized the importance of cost-reduction in coming years.

The majority of work — 57% — will be performed in Fort Worth, where the company employs about 18,400 workers in its aeronautics division. The F-35 jets are assembled there.

“These contracts represent more than a 30% reduction in cost-per-flying-hour from the 2020 annualized contract and exemplify the trusted partnership and commitment we share to reduce sustainment costs and increase availability for this unrivaled 5th generation weapon system,” said Lockheed Martin vice president and F-35 program general manager Bridget Lauderdale.

Lockheed Martin reduced its cost-per-flight-hour by 44% in the last five years, the company said, and it expects to reduce that number by an additional 40% in the next five years. It said the savings will be achieved by improving efficiencies and reliability.

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As of Sept. 1, Lockheed Martin has trained over 1,460 pilots and delivered over 690 aircraft as part of the F-35 Lightning II Program. It employs about 114,000 people worldwide.

The contracts pave the way for a longer-term performance-based logistics agreement for the F-35 program, which would incentivize even more cost-savings, the company said.

“Together with the F-35 Joint Program Office, we recognize the critical role the F-35 plays in supporting our customers’ global missions and the need to deliver this capability affordably,” Lauderdale said.

The company is one of the largest contractors working with the Department of Defense, receiving $75 billion in Pentagon contracts in fiscal year 2020, according to a Brown University study released Monday. Defense contractors received one-third to one-half of the Pentagon’s $14 trillion in spending since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.

Lockheed Martin, which recorded $6.8 billion in profit last year, isn’t just interested in aircraft defense here on Earth. The company expanded its foray into space travel and missile defense in December 2020 with the $4.4 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc.

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