Lockheed Martin Lands the Biggest Defense Contract

By Lemke, Tim | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 27, 2001 | Go to article overview

Lockheed Martin Lands the Biggest Defense Contract


Lemke, Tim, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Tim Lemke

Lockheed Martin Corp. won the largest defense contract in history yesterday, beating out Boeing Co. in a winner-take-all battle to produce the next generation of fighter plane.

Air Force Secretary James G. Roche said the Bethesda company "emerged as the clear winner, based on the strengths, weaknesses and risks involved in their proposal" to produce the Joint Strike Fighter.

"I would not say it was a squeaker at all," he said.

The Joint Strike Fighter is expected to be one of the most advanced planes ever. It is the first plane capable of taking off and landing vertically, like a helicopter, and flying at supersonic speeds. Three versions are expected to be produced for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Britain's Royal Navy and Air Force also will use the planes, which will cost between $40 million and $50 million each.

Yesterday's announcement means Lockheed Martin will receive about $19 billion toward an engineering, manufacturing and development program of the Joint Strike Fighter, which is designed to replace the F-16, F/A-18, A-10, Harrier and AV-8 fighter jets. The company will produce 22 planes during the initial phase, but more importantly, it is likely to be the prime recipient of the full contract, valued at more than $200 billion.

Lockheed Martin's victory is not surprising. In the months leading up to the announcement, defense analysts and observers gave the nation's largest defense contractor the edge, largely because its version of the fighter has been better received by the Air Force. Lockheed Martin's version is largely derived from the F-22, which is seen as the favorite plane of the Air Force.

The contract calls for about 3,000 planes, but there is no cap on production. Potential cost increases and overseas sales could make the contract worth as much as $1 trillion over time, some analysts said.

Lockheed Martin employees in Fort Worth, Texas, where the plane will be produced, cheered wildly at the news of the announcement. Chairman and CEO Vance Coffman congratulated the crowd from Bethesda headquarters.

"I can't tell you how pleased I am with what you just heard," Mr. Coffman said. "This is by far the single most important win for the Lockheed Martin company and the other companies involved."

Predictions of a Lockheed Martin victory, while widespread, were not universal. Some analysts said they preferred Boeing's design, which is seen as more innovative, and said Boeing had better production facilities. Boeing's defense history includes successful productions of the F-18 Super Hornet, Apache helicopter and C-17 Military transport, as well as work on the International Space Station. …

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