The Pentagon has awarded $625 million to Lockheed Martin to continue producing the ninth low-rate production batch of F-35s while negotiations on a final contract price continue.

As part of a not-to-exceed $5.37 billion “undefinitised contractual action” announced by the DOD yesterday, the award supports production of 55 jets, including 34 for the US services and 21 for international buyers.

It procures 41 F-35As combine for the US Air Force (26), Israel (seven), Norway (six) and Japan (two). Twelve F-35Bs are being manufactured for the US Marine Corps (six) and British Royal Navy (six), and the US Navy will receive two carrier-variant F-35Cs.

The F-35 joint programme office and Lockheed expect to conclude negotiations for low-rate initial production lots nine and 10 by the end of the calendar year. The $625 million obligated on 3 November essentially bridges the financial gap between the start of the US government fiscal year on 1 October and the final agreement, Lockheed officials confirm.

"Both LRIP Lots 9 and 10 airframe and engine contract negotiations are nearing completion and contract award is anticipated later this year for LRIP Lot 9, and once the DOD budget is authorised and appropriated, we will be ready to award the LRIP Lot 10 contract sometime at the beginning of the new year," F-35 chief Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan said in written testimony to Congress last month.