Trump meets military brass to discuss cutting F-35 costs
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Trump meets military brass to discuss cutting F-35 costs

President-elect in talks with Lockheed-Martin to bring down $379 billion price tag for 2,443 of the advanced fighters, 33 of which Israel is buying

Israel's first two F-35 stealth fighter jets on their maiden flight as part of the Israeli Air Force on December 13, 2016. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israel's first two F-35 stealth fighter jets on their maiden flight as part of the Israeli Air Force on December 13, 2016. (Israel Defense Forces)

WASHINGTON – President-elect Donald Trump met Wednesday with some of the US military’s top brass to discuss ways of reducing costs, particularly for the F-35 stealth fighter program.

The meeting at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida came after Trump last week blasted the F-35’s costs as “out of control” in a message on Twitter.

Several three- and four-star generals and admirals attended the meeting, including the F-35 program chief Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan.

“Trying to bring costs down,” Trump said when asked what the meeting was about.

“Primarily the F-35, trying to get the costs down. A program that is very, very expensive.”

With a current development and acquisition price tag of $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft — most of them destined for the Air Force — the Lockheed Martin-built plane is the most expensive in history, and costs are set to go higher still.

US President-elect Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with military brass following meetings at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 21, 2016. (Jim Watson/AFP)
US President-elect Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with military brass following meetings at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 21, 2016. (Jim Watson/AFP)

Once servicing, maintenance and other costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs have been projected to rise to as much as $1.5 trillion.

Trump has frequently turned to Twitter to vent his outrage across a range of topics.

On December 6, he blasted Boeing over the possible $4 billion price tag for a replacement Air Force One presidential plane. He also called that project “out of control.”

Trump also met with Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson and Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg.

Asked whether he had secured any concessions from Hewson, Trump said: “We’re just beginning, it’s a dance.”

“But we’re going to get the costs down and we’re going to get it done beautifully.”

Boeing’s Muilenburg told reporters the meeting with Trump went “great” and said Air Force One would be delivered for 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,” Muilenburg said.

Israel received the first two F-35 planes last week out of a multi-year purchase of 33 for which it spent some $5.5 billion. Most of the cost of the Israeli purchase, which may rise to as many as 50 planes, is to be paid with US military aid.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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