BAE says Trump seeking at least 10 percent cut in F-35 costs

Lockheed Martin plans to add as many as 1,800 jobs in Fort Worth as it ramps up production of the F-35.
Lockheed Martin plans to add as many as 1,800 jobs in Fort Worth as it ramps up production of the F-35. Star-Telegram

President-elect Donald Trump has asked Lockheed Martin to reduce costs on the $379 billion F-35 fighter jet program by at least 10 percent, according to Roger Carr, chairman of BAE Systems, which is a key participant in the program.

“We’ve been told through Lockheed that the president has an ambition to reduce the cost of that aircraft by a material amount of money, many percent into double digits, over a period,” Carr said in a Bloomberg Television interview Tuesday from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We respect that and we’ll work towards a contribution towards that.”

Trump has targeted defense contractors including Lockheed and Boeing for what he says are excessive expenses on government projects. Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed’s chief executive officer, has met twice with Trump after he attacked the company about the program and its cost, calling it out of control.

Lockheed is building the F-35 fighter jet for hte U.S. military and foreign customers at its aeronautics complex in west Fort Worth; it delivered the 200th airplane last week.

BAE, Europe’s biggest defense company, is teamed with Lockheed and Northrop Grumman on delivering the F-35 program and also has a 15 percent work-share on each plane, excluding the propulsion system. It makes the fuselage, tail and wing parts and oversees production of the fuel, ejection and life-support systems and elements of weapons integration.

Last week, Hewson told Trump that Lockheed is close to a deal with the Pentagon to lower costs “significantly” on the next and largest production lot yet of F-35s. She also said that Lockheed plans to add 1,800 workers in Fort Worth as the plane moves towards full production by the end of the decade, a projection the company has made in the past.

Separately, in an interview with Bloomberg News, departing Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the F-35 has come a long way since “grotesque” cost overruns and schedule delays plagued the program.

Carter recalled that the program was “near collapse and disgrace” when he first wrestled with its status in 2009 as undersecretary of defense for acquisition. “We needed to instill discipline,” he said, and “eventually that was done.”

Highlighting the promised capability of an aircraft that’s been dubbed a flying computer, Carter said, “If we stay on course, no other fighter aircraft in the world will come close to competing with” the F-35 “for performance and cost, and we will wipe out all competition.”

This article includes material from Star-Telegram archives.