Trump mounts dogfight with Lockheed-Martin over F-35 costs

The most expensive weapons program in American military history just got its most powerful critic: President-elect Donald Trump.

The incoming commander-in-chief took aim Monday at the costly F-35 fighter jet program on Twitter, after earlier calling out the program during a Fox News interview.

“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” Trump tweeted. “Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after [Inauguration Day] January 20th.”

The complaints echo the charges Trump leveled last week against another major government venture. Trump last Tuesday blasted Boeing for the projected bill of a new fleet of Air Force One planes.

In taking on the controversial F-35, Trump is picking a fight with another contractor giant, Lockheed Martin.


Trump also criticized the program during an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

“If you look at the F-35 program with the money, the hundreds of billions of dollars, and it’s out of control,” Trump said. “And the people that are making these deals for the government, they should never be allowed to go to work for these companies.”

While Trump had called for a cancellation of Boeing’s Air Force One replacement deal, he didn’t go that far with the F-35, instead shining a light on the nearly $400 billion endeavor that is already four years behind schedule. The initial costs to produce the more than 2,400 jets to be bought by the U.S. — and 600 more by other nations — have almost doubled since the undertaking began 15 years ago.

“We look forward to working with the president-elect and his administration to further build on the F-35 program’s record of demonstrated performance and affordability,” a Lockheed Martin spokesman told The Wall Street Journal after Trump’s Sunday remarks.

Lockheed Martin’s shares dropped 2.6 percent in premarket trade after Trump tweeted at 8:26 a.m., Reuters reported. Other manufacturers with stakes in the F-35 experienced similar early drops.

Trump’s criticism of the F-35 puts him in the company of sometime-rivals such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who in April referred to the program as “a scandal and a tragedy.”

Pentagon officials also have been criticized as giving “misleading” answers to congressional critics of the F-35 in an effort to paint the program in a positive light, according to an internal November memo from the director of operational test and evaluation published Wednesday by Bloomberg.