A new contract for more F-35 fighter jets will take time, given the focus on cost, the CEO of the world's largest defense contractor says.
"We have been open and collaborative throughout this process on this negotiation, but what I will tell you is it's a complex negotiation because … when you consider 130 aircraft for this next lot, it's very important to understand the cost," said Marillyn Hewson, chief of Lockheed Martin.
The company, the prime contractor for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, has been negotiating with the Pentagon on the next contract since last year. It involves the 11th batch of 130 fighters, which would go to the U.S. and allies including the U.K., Australia and Norway. The Defense Department missed its own target of getting a deal done by the end of 2017.
Last week, Vice Adm. Mat Winter, who manages the program, blamed Lockheed for slow negotiations.
"They could be much more cooperative and more collaborative, and we could seal this deal faster," he said, according to Defense News. "We could. They choose not to, and that's a negotiating tactic."
In response, Hewson told CNBC: "Our government customer needs to understand the cost. We need to make sure that we are both at the table negotiating. As our program executive officer Adm. Winter has said, we're both negotiating in good faith. It just takes time to walk through all the elements of it first."
Cost has been a huge sticking point for the F-35, as numerous delays and costs overruns have spurred criticism over the years. Lockheed came under fire from then-President-elect Donald Trump in late 2016, when he slammed the program as too expensive.