Trump’s Pentagon chief orders F-35, Air Force One reviews

President Donald Trump wants to lower the cost of the F-35 fighter jet, which is built in west Fort Worth.
President Donald Trump wants to lower the cost of the F-35 fighter jet, which is built in west Fort Worth. Star-Telegram archives

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered reviews of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and plans for Boeing to build new Air Force One presidential aircraft, two high-profile federal programs that President Donald Trump has singled out for criticism.

Mattis issued the reviews in order to “inform programmatic and budgetary decisions, recognizing the critical importance of each of these acquisition programs,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement Friday.

“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense.”

In December, Trump tweeted that the F-35 costs are “out of control.”

In a memorandum on the F-35, Mattis said the deputy secretary of defense will oversee the review to “determine opportunities to significantly reduce the cost” of the F-35, saying it should begin immediately.

He also ordered a study of whether Boeing’s older F/A-18 Super Hornet could be upgraded to provide a less costly alternative to the Lockheed fighter, a proposal defense analysts have said is probably unworkable given the different roles and capabilities of the two fighters.

For Air Force One, Mattis said the review will identify how to “substantially reduce the program’s costs.”

“We have been responsive in providing information to the Trump administration and we look forward to continuing that dialogue as this process moves forward,” said Todd Blecher, a Boeing spokesman.

Earlier this week, during an earnings report, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson said the company has pledged to reduce the price of the F-35 to $85 million by 2019.

In a statement released Friday, Lockheed Martin said it stands ready to support Mattis’ review. The company said that there are opportunities to continue driving down costs by using sound buying practices.

“We are confident such a thorough and objective analysis will show that only the F-35, with its advanced stealth and sensors, can meet the 21st century air superiority requirements of all of our military services,” Lockheed said.

Lockheed employs about 14,000 in Fort Worth, including 8,800 who work on the stealth fighter. To support full production of the jet, Lockheed plans to hire at least another 1,800 employees.

Staff writer Max B. Baker contributed to this report.