FORT WORTH, Texas – Officials of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. met Friday to discuss sharing work on the Joint Strike Fighter, potentially the largest ever U.S. military contract.
Lockheed and Boeing released a joint statement after the meeting saying the companies "now have a much better understanding of each other's business considerations" and have agreed to meet again at an undetermined date.
Two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced it had picked Lockheed over Boeing to develop the new plane. The production phase of the work could be worth $200 billion, based on a projected order of 3,000 planes.
Lockheed's main subcontractors are Northrop Grumman Corp. and UK-based BAE Systems. Final assembly would be done at Lockheed's aeronautics division in Fort Worth.
Lockheed has a production plant in Marietta, Ga., that would indirectly benefit from the contract.
Chicago-based Boeing and politicians in Missouri, where Boeing planned to assemble the Joint Strike Fighter, have pushed to split the work between the two companies.
They say that giving the entire contract to Lockheed would drive Boeing out of the jet fighter business, leaving Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed as the only U.S. manufacturer.
Analysts said Lockheed would be wise to give Boeing some work on the fighter to increase political support for production. Paul Nisbet of JSA Research Inc. said Boeing could get up to 25 percent of the work, only slightly less than the combined share of Northrop Grumman and BAE.
But analysts remain less certain about what Boeing might contribute to the project.
Joe Stout, a Lockheed spokesman, said the company was willing to consider a Boeing role "as long as it makes sense and doesn't add a lot of unnecessary cost to the program."
In trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, Lockheed shares fell 25 cents to $47.50, and Boeing shares fell $1.66 to $33.24.