Will Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT) F-35 fighter jet really cost taxpayers $1 trillion over its lifespan? If United Technologies (NYSE: UTX) has anything to say about it, maybe not.

Yesterday, the current sole-source provider of the engine that will fly Lockheed's new bird announced a plan to cut costs on said engine. "We have activities planned and in place to bring the cost down" when outfitting Lockheed's fifth tranche of F-35s slated for delivery to the U.S. Air Force. What's more, UTX says it will improve engine performance even as it lowers prices!

Word has it that UTC's move is in response to General Electric's (NYSE: GE) success in getting its F136 "alternative engine" back into the defense appropriations bill (albeit without funding). Congress is now promising to keep the GE engine alive, so that if UTX's engine turns out to be a dud, it can be forced into a new competition for the right to supply the F-35.

Foolish takeaway
I don't know whether UTX is cutting prices out of altruism, patriotism, or just good ol' capitalistic efforts to head off a rival at the pass. Whatever management's motivation, the move bodes poorly for GE's regaining funding for its engine. UTX investors should be pleased.

The ball is once again in GE's court to respond. How will it respond to UTX's move? Add General Electric and United Technologies to your Fool Watchlist, and find out.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Lockheed Martin, but Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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