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Trump Again Hints at F-35, F-18 Competition

January 11, 2017 (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/US Air Force)
WASHINGTON – President-elect Donald Trump used the opening remarks of his first press conference of the year to reiterate a desire to drive costs down on the F-35 joint strike fighter, a move which could involve competing it against the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The stock price of Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, immediately fell upon Trump’s comments, going from $255.78 right before the speech to $252.20 at publication. Interestingly, the stock for Super Hornet manufacturer Boeing also dipped slightly on Trump’s comments.

“I'm very much involved with the generals and admirals on the airplane, the F-35, you’ve been reading about it. And it is way, way behind schedule and many billions of dollars over budget. I don't like that,” Trump said, before saying the admirals and generals had been “fantastic.”

“I've really gotten to know them well. And were going to do some big things on the F-35 program and perhaps the F-18 program. And we’re going to get those costs way down, and we’re gonna get the plane even better, and we’re going to have to competition. And it's going to be a beautiful thing.”

While defense procurement issues usually aren’t at the top of the priority list for an incoming president, Trump has focused in on a pair of acquisition programs in the months since his election day victory.

On Dec. 6, the president-elect tweeted that Boeing’s Air Force One replacement program should be cancelled. Six days later, he tweeted that the F-35 program is “out of control.”

Boeing and Lockheed’s CEOs met with Trump on Dec. 21 in what was seen as a clear-the-air style meeting, but less than 24 hours after, the president-elect sent shockwaves through the defense community when he sent yet another tweet which appeared to call for Boeing to develop a competitor for the F-35 – something industry analysts, as well as outgoing Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, quickly agreed was simply not possible at the technical level.

Wednesday’s comments seem to indicate Trump is still interested in competition between Boeing and Lockheed for the fifth-generation fighter.

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