Trump pits Lock­heed vs. Boe­ing to cut costs

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump said Thurs­day that he has asked Boe­ing to con­sider build­ing a fighter jet to re­place the F-35 at a lower cost, mov­ing to pit two of the coun­try’s big­gest aero­space gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors against each other.

“Based on the tremen­dous cost and cost over­runs of the Lock­heed Martin F-35, I have asked Boe­ing to price-out a com­pa­ra­ble F-18 Su­per Hor­net!” Mr. Trump said in a Twit­ter post late in the af­ter­noon.

On Wed­nes­day, Mr. Trump met with the chiefs of Boe­ing and Lock­heed and pres­sured them to cut costs. For Boe­ing, he wants a cheaper Air Force One re­place­ment. For Lock­heed, he warned that it needed to limit the “out of con­trol” over­runs for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Based on the re­ac­tions, the meet­ing with Boe­ing seemed to go bet­ter. The CEO promised to lower the cost of Air Force One to less than $4 bil­lion.

“We’re go­ing to get it done for less than that, and we’re com­mit­ted to work­ing to­gether to make sure that hap­pens,” CEO Dennis Muilen­burg said. “And I was able to give the pres­i­dent-elect my per­sonal com­mit­ment on be­half of the Boe­ing Co.”

The Lock­heed CEO re­fused to speak to re­porters, and Mr. Trump said they were en­gaged in a “dance” over the costs.

His tweet Thurs­day sug­gests that he is ready to play hardball with Lock­heed with an al­ter­na­tive to the F-35. Boe­ing is the lead con­trac­tor on the F-18 Su­per Hor­net, which has been the Navy’s go-to plane for years.

The F-35 was sup­posed to be the re­place­ment plane for all of the ser­vices, but it has faced mas­sive cost over­runs, de­layed sched­ules and pro­duc­tion prob­lems, in­clud­ing a fleetwide ground­ing for en­gine trou­bles in 2014.

The fly­away cost of an F-35 is listed at nearly $110 mil­lion, while the cost of a Su­per Hor­net comes in at around $60 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Aeroweb. The F-35’s back­ers pre­dict the plane’s costs will drop as pro­duc­tion in­creases.

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