F-35 chief confirms phone call with Trump and Boeing CEO

Andrew Cummings
February 17, 2017

Days after Trump's inauguration, Lockheed and the Department of Defense announced the next F-35 contract, which saved around $738 million on the program. In the Bloomberg report, Lockheed declined to comment and Boeing referred to its CEO's comments after his January meeting with Trump, in which he said they "made some great progress" in their talks.

On Thursday, Bogdan confirmed that Muilenburg was sitting in on Trump's call about the F-35. "There were no decisions made during those conversations, and it was my belief that President-elect Trump at the time was attempting to gain more information about the F-35 and its affordability, trying to gain more information about F-35s capabilities relative to the Super Hornet and to gain more information about the presidential aircraft replacement program". But Trump's calls to a uniformed program manager to discuss a contract that was completed 16 years ago were unprecedented and potentially disruptive, said a defense analyst. It's one thing to call up a program head as the CEO of a corporation, but when you're the Commander-in-Chief going directly to a much lower subordinate in a system built directly upon the concept of following the proper chain-of-command, it causes mass confusion and an unraveling of the whole process.

"Behavior that looks decisive in the business world can unhinge a military organization that depends on order and discipline", said Thompson, who also consults for Lockheed. Trump "asked a lot of very, very, very good questions", he said. On the 17 of January it was myself, President-elect Trump and Mr. Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing.

"We all know that the F-35 can do that job of the F-18; the F-18 cannot do the job of the F-35", Turner said. Northrop Grumman (NOC), a major F-35 subcontractor, rose 0.1%. The two aircraft have different capabilities and mission requirements.

The U.S. Air Force, which plans to buy 1,763 of the F-35A model jets, would not fly Boeing's minimally stealthy "fourth-generation" Super Hornet, which is designed for aircraft carrier operations. Instead, although it will raise the overall price of F-35As per plane [because the production run will be far less], the President will commit to buying many more Boeing F/A-18F/G fighter aircraft for the Navy.

The Navy version of the F-35 is easier to target because it's not scheduled to be operational until August 2018 at the earliest.

However, the procurement of F-35B aircraft, the Marine Corps version, will remain approximately the same. Lockheed has delivered 26 of the Navy jets to date, with four more on order, according to spokesman Mike Rein.

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