Articles

Will Trump's tweets shoot down the Lightning?

Fresh off a tweet targeting the climbing costs of the new Air Force One, President-elect Donald Trump has now turned his attention to a much bigger program: The F-35 Lightning II.


Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America and F-35B Lightning II Marine Corps personnel prepare to equip the aircraft with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during flight operations. (US Navy)

In a tweet sent out at 8:26 AM, Trump wrote, "The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th."

 

The tweet is not much of a surprise. Aviation Week and Space Technology, sometimes referred to as "Aviation Leak," noted during the Air Force One controversy that Trump had been critical of the F-35's costs during his successful presidential campaign.

Last week, after Trump tweeted about the rising costs of the planned replacement for the VC-25, CNN reported that the CEO of Boeing contacted Trump to assure the president-elect that he would work to keep costs down.

The program — which has been so delayed that the Marines had to pull legacy F/A-18 Hornets out of the "boneyard" at Davis Monthan Air Force Base to have enough planes to do its mission — has seen costs climb to roughly $100 million per aircraft. The plane is slated to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons, legacy F/A-18 Hornets, A-10 Thunderbolts, and the AV-8B Harriers in U.S. military service.

Mission planners could risk four airmen in fifth-generation planes or up to 75 in legacy aircraft when embarking on dangerous missions. US Air Force

The state of the Marine Corps F/A-18 inventory may preclude a complete cancellation of the F-35 buy, however. Since Oct. 1, four Marine F/A-18 Hornets have crashed. In the most recent crash, the pilot was killed despite ejecting from his plane.

Trump's tweet comes as news emerged of the Pentagon concealing a report of $125 billion in "administrative waste" over the last five years.

The money wasted could have funded a number of weapon systems that the Pentagon had cut over the last eight years.

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