President Donald Trump caught some flak from his critics when he claimed he was responsible for a $600 million drop in the cost of the most recent lot of F-35 fighter aircraft, but the plane’s manufacturer acknowledged there may be some truth to the claim.
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson credited Trump for the acceleration of negotiations on low-rate initial production (LRIP) lot 10, the most recent batch of 90 F-35s, according to a report by DoD Buzz.
“If you think about his focus and his long-term trend of increasing more spending in national security and on defense spending, the F-35 is the largest program that the Department of Defense has in its budget,” Hewson told reporters Tuesday. “So for him to focus on the F-35 and to focus on how he can get the best price for the taxpayer going forward, I think, was perfectly appropriate.”
According to Hewson, Trump’s involvement in negotiations between Lockheed and the Pentagon on lot 10 “absolutely” made a difference.
“He helped accelerate that along, and I think he put a sharper focus on price and how we drive the price down,” she said. “He absolutely did contribute to us getting to closure on that.”
Trump was criticized by some opponents for taking credit for the lower cost, pointing to the fact that the F-35 program’s officials had already predicted the drop a month earlier. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the Joint Strike Fighter program’s chief, expected the unit price of the aircraft to drop by 6 to 7 percent as more were produced, for a total of $600 million.
Trump has been a known critic of the F-35 since winning the presidency, and even explored the idea of replacing the aircraft with modernized versions of Boeing’s F-18. The idea was quickly dismissed as unfeasible by Rep. Kay Granger, chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
The F-35 and its variants are slated to replace a plethora of older, fourth generation aircraft in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. The highly advanced fighter has proven to be remarkably capable during testing, however, its initially high price point drew criticism from budget-conscious analysts and lawmakers. That said, Hewson noted that the price per unit of the aircraft should continue to drop as the military continues to buy future lots of the fighter.
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