Trump pits Lockheed vs. Boeing to cut costs
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.