Of the many arrows in the quiver of the F-35 Lightning's critics, the overall cost of the plane and its accompanying development is the most frequently used. The farcically high procurement and development costs – $398.6 billion, as of April – are only overshadowed by the individual cost of a plane, which is expected to exceed $100 million, regardless of which branch of the service it's for.

Sweeping changes on the part of the plane's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, could bring that last figure down quite measurably, though. LM is aiming to lower the cost of the Air Force's F-35A to $80 million by 2019 through a series of 600 projects "across the entire supply base," the F-35 program's Lorraine Martin told Flight Global.

"We're going to change things about how we do the aircraft, or in some cases, we're going to actually change the aircraft," Martin told FG. "It's really important that we do that in concert with the US government."

In many cases, that means Lockheed will be spending money to save money. For example, a $342,000 investment in 3D-printed parts (as opposed to traditionally milled items) could shave a total of $31.5 million over the program's life. Another $360,000 investment in redesigning the manufacturing of a rudder component, could trim another $205 million. In other words, these refinements could mean big bucks over the F-35's decades of service.

In total, and alongside engine supplier Pratt and Whitney and Rolls-Royce, over $170 million will be invested in the next two years to helped reduce the price of the F-35. Here's hoping it works out.

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