Lockheed Martin is looking to expand its foreign sales, a goal that will be largely driven by sales of the F-35 to international partners, the company's CEO said Tuesday.
Marillyn Hewson told reporters at Lockheed Martin's media day that she is "more optimistic than ever" about the company's prospects for growth, including selling more aircraft overseas.
The company's $12.7 billion in international sales last year made up more than a quarter of the company's total sales, Hewson said. In addition, about 40 percent of new business in 2016 came from international partners.
Hewson said the goal is for international sales to make up 30 percent of the company's total in the coming years, mostly driven by sales of the F-35, which is being developed and purchased by international partners.
Most partners are buying the A-variant of the F-35, which is the conventional takeoff and landing platform also used by the U.S. Air Force. That version cost $94.6 million for each copy in the most recent lot of aircraft, announced in February, but the cost is expected to drop to $85 million or less per plane by fiscal 2019, Hewson said.
Driving down the cost of the F-35 has been a key part of Hewson's multiple conversations with President Trump, who repeatedly slammed the fifth-generation joint strike fighter prior to his inauguration. Since then, he has taken credit for driving down the cost in the lot that was released in February.
Hewson also talked about a coming increase in defense spending, both in the U.S. and abroad. She said the fiscal 2018 budget proposal from Trump's administration brings an "important increase" in U.S. defense spending after years of budget caps. Trump would spend $603 billion on base national defense in fiscal 2018, a $54 billion boost over Budget Control Act levels, but the plan faces an uphill battle on Capitol Hill.
She also talked about an increase in overseas defense spending as NATO allies strive to live up to the promise to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense following criticism from Trump during the campaign.
If NATO members were to meet this commitment, a $100 billion increase in defense spending would occur across the alliance, Hewson said.