Now, For Some Good F-35 Joint Strike Fighter News

Projected costs have dropped nearly $5 billion.

The projected cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter dropped $4.9 billion -- 1.5 percent -- to $326.9 billion at the end of 2012, versus $331.9 billion at the end of 2011, the Pentagon reported last week in its annual account of major programs.

This drop, the Pentagon said, reflects lower labor costs by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. and its subcontractors, along with latest cost estimates of airframes -- the plane minus the engines.

Projected F-35 engine costs increased $444.2 million to $64.3 billion, from $63.9 billion in 2011. The increase was “due primarily to revised escalation indices,” the Pentagon reported.

Despite the increase in engine cost, the Defense Department shaved $4.5 billion off the F-35 price tag in a year. If this trend continues, the Pentagon may well avoid having to run a bake sale to finance completion of the fighter.