Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a recent interview that if President-elect Donald Trump tries to drop the F-35 in favor of the F-18, the service will oppose that move.
In December, Trump caused a scene when he suggested that Boeing price out a version of the F-18 to substitute for the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in history. James is now pushing back against the idea that the F-18 could possibly compare to the F-35, Defense News reports.
For James, the F-35 is a much more advanced weapons system.
“The Air Force does not view the F/A-18 and the F-35 to be substitutable at all,” James said in an interview with Defense News Jan. 5. “They fulfill different requirements. They’re both fine aircraft, don’t get me wrong. But it’s fourth generation, and F-35 is fifth generation.”
“The leaders of the Air Force will have the opportunity when the time comes to advise the president-elect on this,” James said. “But based on everything I know, the two are not interchangeable and the Air Force has not expressed interest in the F/A-18s.”
James said it’s unclear what exactly Trump intends to do with the F-35, but from what she can tell, he seems to be trying to drive down the cost.
Trump’s view on the F-35 may represent another clash between himself and his pick for secretary of defense, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who has affirmed to Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal that he has a “clear commitment” to the F-35 program.
Trump first tweeted out Dec. 12 that “The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” hinting that he would try and reduce the cost of the weapons program once he officially takes over the presidency.
He followed up that tweet Dec. 22 with a request that Boeing “price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”
Trump does have the authority to cancel a weapons program, but it seems as though the Air Force will advise against that move.
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