July 21, 2024
Trump Drives Down Price Of F-35 Fighter 25% From Obama Level
The Pentagon announced a multiyear production agreement last week that will drive the price of each F-35A fighter below that of the Cold War planes it is replacing.
The Pentagon announced a multiyear production agreement last week that will drive the price of each F-35A fighter below that of the Cold War planes it is replacing.

Media coverage of President Trump is so consistently negative that a casual observer might easily conclude he has accomplished nothing constructive during his time in the White House. But here is an example of a major spending program where the President pledged to save billions of dollars and proceeded to do precisely that through tough negotiating and relentless pressure.

The program in question is the F-35 fighter, by far the biggest weapons program currently being funded anywhere in the world. The Pentagon has developed three different versions of the F-35 to replace the Cold War tactical aircraft of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The plane is also being bought by a dozen allies.

Trump never had any trouble understanding the operational advantages of a supersonic, multi-mission fighter that is invisible to radar. But from day one, he was not happy with the trillion-dollar price-tag attached to the program for buying over 2,000 planes and then keeping them in operation through 2070. Even after it was explained to him that much of that cost was inflation estimates for future years, he still thought the price was way too high.

So he decided to do something about it. In fact, Trump began his campaign to lower the cost of F-35 even before he was inaugurated. In a tweet he wrote on December 12, 2016, the President-elect said “billions of dollars can and will be saved” by pressing contractors for a better deal. Lockheed Martin, the company building the plane, saw its share price plummet 5%, and CEO Marillyn Hewson soon found herself meeting with a grim Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort to explain why the fighter cost so much.

Hewson undoubtedly argued that the F-35 was far more capable than the Cold War planes it would replace—in fact, ten times better than legacy planes at jamming enemy radar, eight times better at surveillance, six times better at air-to-air combat, five times better at striking ground targets. Combat exercises later demonstrated that in wartime, the F-35 would shoot down 20 enemy fighters for every U.S. plane lost.

But Trump wasn’t mollified. He insisted the price was too high. Only a week before his election, the Pentagon and Lockheed had agreed on terms for building a ninth production lot of F-35s. The Air Force version, representing nearly three-quarters of the domestic production run (more if you count foreign sales), was priced at $102 million each. Trump was convinced he could do better than the Obama administration had done, because he thought he was a better negotiator.


See Also:

(1) A high-stakes game of chicken is playing out in the Gulf of Oman


1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
June 20, 2019 8:59 am

Will love to hear Justin tie his tongue into knots with his brightest coloured socks arguing why the new price on the jets disqualifies them for consideration for purchase for Canada. Because they’re drink box water bottle sort of things. And it’s 2019.