04:55 GMT17 February 2020
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    US President-elect Donald Trump met with top executives from Lockheed Martin and Boeing on Wednesday to begin negotiating for new aircraft that the incoming President previously criticized for 'out of control" costs.

    Trump’s meetings with Boeing and Lockheed were held separately in Palm Beach, Florida, and included senior defense officials. The next Air Force One will have "the best capability" at an affordable price point, Boeing chairman Dennis Muilenburg claimed, following the meeting.

    ​The aim of the talks was "to get costs down," Trump said, emphasizing "costs." The President-elect cried foul over a $4-billion price tag associated with the presidential plane, but Boeing is "going to get it done for less than that," the Boeing CEO said following the meeting. The Chicago-based aerospace giant must work with federal officials to create an aircraft to Pentagon specifications, including anti-missile defense systems. Boeing has yet to be awarded a contract for the physical production of the plane, but the company has started building out the plane’s systems.

    Government contracts analyst Kevin Brancato notes that the Pentagon has set aside $3.2 billion for the life-cycle of the two planes, from research and development to construction and acquisition.

    The F-35 Saga Carries On

    Trump and the Lockheed Martin CEO conversed on the ever-contentious F-35 fighter jet program, though Trump would not commit to having gained any victories during the negotiations. "It’s a dance, you know" he said, indicating the discussions are still in the preliminary stages, adding that the F-35 program is “very, very expensive.”

    The self-proclaimed best deal-maker in the world assured reporters that F-35 costs will be reduced, however. “We’re going to do it beautifully,” he remarked. 

    The US currently maintains a fleet of 178 F-35As, 71 F-35Bs and 36 F-35Cs. Some lawmakers have called for the US to acquire more than 2,000 F-35s through 2038, according to recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) research. The CBO report indicates the Pentagon could dial back costs 29 percent over the next decade by adding the highest-tech versions of the older F-16s and F/A-18s fighters, instead of the beleaguered F-35s.

    A recent investigation discovered that a mere loose bracket in the weapons bay of an F-35B caused the fifth-generation fighter to go up in flames. What’s even more baffling is that not all F-35’s have received the modified brackets, according to a senior defense official, creating ongoing unease for flight crews.


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    Air Force One, F-35 fighter jet, Boeing, Donald Trump, United States
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