Commenting on his campaign trail pledges to end wasteful federal spending, Trump tweeted that costs for the F-35 program were "out of control," adding that, "Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th [the day of his inauguration]."
After Trump’s social-media jabs, Lockheed Martin’s stock plummeted, resulting in a devaluation of the defense manufacturer by some $4 billion. In response, Lockheed’s F-35 program leader Jeff Babione said the company is making strides toward the F-35 being less cost prohibitive. "Since the beginning, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce the price of the airplane by about 70 percent since its original costing, and we project it to be about 85 million dollars in the 2019 or 2020 time frame," he said.
Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, an executive of the F-35 program for the Pentagon, acknowledged the incoming President’s remarks, telling reporters, "There is a perception that this program is out of control…So, if given the opportunity I would like to try and explain to the new administration that this is a vastly different program from 2011."
Bogdan suggested that Trump made his comments out of concern for the Defense Department getting the most value for their dollar. The Pentagon official said, "I applaud the new administration for that, because that is what we should all be striving for."
In an interview with Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear, former F-16 jet design team member Pierre Sprey applauded Trump for speaking up about the problems with the F-35 program, calling the jet a "hopelessly ineffective airplane."
Sprey expressed doubt that Trump could successfully cut the program however, as subcontractor profits are keyed throughout the US. Sprey told Sputnik that the F-35 constitutes, "the world’s largest military procurement program ever," observing that the program "Completely dwarfs the development of the atomic bomb, the development of intercontinental missiles, nothing has ever cost as much."
The analyst added that, by the end of the F-35’s lifespan, the warcraft will have cost American taxpayers roughly $1.5 trillion.
The jet has been saddled with technical issues, almost from the outset. The most recent in a long line of problems is debris in some F-35 fuel tanks, after insulation was found to have fallen into the fuel, contaminating it.