Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson assured the company's investors on 29 January that the Pentagon would not reduce its acquisition of F-35 jets despite recent criticism from the Department of Defence's top official. Her assurance comes in wake of statements by acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who lambasted the F-35 for its high costs, with the cheapest version of the plane being sold for $90 million per jet.
An anonymous former Defence Department official, quoted by Politico, said that Shanahan had used even harsher wording at the high-level Pentagon meetings, calling the F-35 "f***ed up" and its program unsustainable due to the incredible costs and the plane's "out-years".
Hewson also commented on reports that the Pentagon is mulling acquiring F-15 jets from Boeing — one of Lockheed Martin's main competitors for military contracts. Lockheed Martin's CEO said that even if the Department of Defence decides to buy F-15s, it would not happen at the expense of the F-35s, citing the Pentagon's top brass. She also assured that the company is currently working on reducing the jet's price to $80 million.
Even if Lockheed Martin manages to do that, Boeing's F-15 will still be considerably cheaper, with the F-15 Eagle air superiority jet costing less than $30 million and the F-15E Strike Eagle, fitted for conducting airstrikes, costing around $31 million.
Development of the fifth-generation F-35 jet began in 1992 and was fully completed only in 2018, with deadlines and costs being repeatedly postponed and increased, drawing criticism from experts and politicians. Late Senator John McCain, who was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the F-35 a "poster child for acquisition malpractice", criticising the delays in development and cost overruns.