Trump says Air Force One, F-35 fighter costs are “out of control”

Tuesday December 13 2016

Air Force One

President-elect Donald Trump called Tuesday for the cancellation of a multibillion-dollar Boeing contract to build the next Air Force One, calling the ballooning costs "ridiculous." FILE PHOTO | NICOLAS ASFOURI | AFP 

By AFP
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WASHINGTON

President-elect Donald Trump took aim Monday at a second US aerospace giant in as many weeks, this time attacking the F-35 stealth fighter and its "out of control" costs.

With a current development and acquisition price tag of $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft — most of them destined for the Air Force — the Lockheed Martin-built plane is the most expensive in history, and costs are set to go higher still.

"The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th," Trump said on Twitter, as Defence Secretary Ashton Carter was in Israel to celebrate delivery of the country's first two of the Lockheed Martin fighters.

Trump has frequently turned to Twitter to vent his outrage across a range of topics.

On December 6, he blasted Boeing over the possible $4 billion price tag for a replacement Air Force One presidential plane. He also called that project "out of control."

Lockheed Martin stocks closed at $253.11 on Monday, down 2.47 percent.

Once servicing, maintenance and other costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall program costs have been projected to rise to as much as $1.5 trillion.

But Lockheed insisted the F-35 program was "amazing" and said it would welcome the chance to answer any questions Trump may have.

The Pentagon declined to comment.

The US Air Force declared an initial squadron of F-35A fighters "battle ready," in August, after reports of cost overruns and delays.

The Air Force's F-35A is one of three variants of the aircraft, designed to conduct conventional landings and take-offs.

Proponents tout the F-35's radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air-support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

But the program has faced numerous setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to ground planes until the problem could be resolved.