Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin Corp. has received a $266.2 million contract for special tooling and test equipment supporting the F-35 program, the Pentagon said.
The majority of the work will be performed at Lockheed's Fort Worth facility, as well as at 16 other U.S. locations and seven foreign facilities. Work is expected to be completed by July 2022.
The plane, of which there are three variants, is in use, on order or in planned acquisition by 15 countries and range in price from $82 million to $115 million each.
The fifth generation fighter aircraft is regarded as state-of-the-art, but they have been dogged by a very low readiness rate, according to reports.
The Project on Government Oversight's Center for Defense Information reported in August that only 8.7 percent, of the 23 F-35s planes in the Edwards AFB, Calif., operational test fleet were "fully mission capable" in June 2019, when analysis of data from the Pentagon's Joint Program Office was begun.
The delay in readiness has been blamed on parts shortages and an inadequate supply chain, and several contracts have been awarded in recent months as Congress looks for suppliers -- most notably, Lockheed -- to catch up because the aircraft are increasingly being deployed and sent out for use.
The cost of the U.S. military's F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter plane program is increasing again, an August report by the Defense Department said, though the new increases were partially blamed on software and other upgrades to the existing global fleet.
The report, which was an update to its 2020 budget, noted that the cost of the F-35 program grew by $25 billion in 2018, and is the "main driver" of a four percent increase in overall military spending.