Coming behind US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter‘s visit to Israel, during a delivery of the first two F-35s, Trump tweeted, "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."
Sprey called the F-35 a "hopelessly ineffective airplane," saying, "I applaud what Trump said. It was entirely correct, it’s been true for years. Whether he can deliver on that remains to be seen. The military industrial complex has enormous power to keep the money flowing, but we will see."
Loud & Clear host Brian Becker noted that Lockheed Martin’s stock valuation dropped some $2 billion after Trump’s tweet, and asked Sprey what he thought the incoming President’s motivation was, to be so critical of the warcraft.
"I would suspect that he has some advisors that know something about defense and the F-35 has been the leading scandal in the entire defense budget for 10 years.” he replied. “Remember, this is the world’s largest military procurement program ever. Completely dwarfs the development of the atomic bomb, the development of intercontinental missiles, nothing has ever cost as much."
Sprey pointed out that just the purchase price of the jets will cost American taxpayers some $400 billion, and that by the end of the F-35’s lifespan the program will have cost an estimated $1.5 trillion.
Along with a hefty price tag, the F-35 has also been beset with technical issues. Fifteen operational aircrafts were grounded in October when insulations was found decomposing in the coolant tubes, ejector seats were found to be hazardous to pilot’s lives, and helmets, which run about $400,000, were blinding pilots with a green glow, greatly increasing the difficulty of night time landing.
"It’s lot of money for something that not only doesn’t work, but actually harms American airpower." Sprey detailed, "For every F-35 you buy, you’re foregoing the opportunity to upgrade and refurbish existing fighters that work far better right now than the F-35 will ever work. You could upgrade five fighters for every F-35 you buy."
He added that the jet is not often flown, making it difficult to have adequate numbers in enemy skies and making it "impossible to have thoroughly competent, highly skilled pilots."
Becker offered, "It’s a perfect storm. There’s a lot of money to be made by the manufacturer [and] the military industrial complex, so the F-35 and all of its subcontractors are spread out all over the country, in other words all these politicians in Congress have some stake in the maintenance of this project that doesn’t work. At the same time, once you’ve spent a lot of money it’s hard to stop spending money and declare a program a failure."
Sprey agreed, saying, "That’s exactly what Donald Trump is against. My prediction is that he will not be able to prevail. When you’re facing a $1.5 trillion juggernaut, even if you’re as determined a man as Donald Trump, you’re not going to make a very big dent in this program."