After emerging from a meeting Friday with President-elect Donald Trump, the chief executive officer of defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin Corp. vowed to "significantly" cut the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
"We had the opportunity to talk to him about the F-35 program and I certainly share his views that we need to get the best capability to our men and women in uniform and we have to get it at the lowest possible price," Marillyn Hewson told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, according to a pool report.
"So I'm glad I had the opportunity to tell him that we are close to a deal that will bring the cost down significantly from the previous lot of aircraft to the next lot of aircraft and moreover it's going to bring a lot of jobs to the United States," she said.
Hewson added, "In fact we are going to increase our jobs in Fort Worth by 1,800 jobs and when you think about the supply chain across 45 states in the U.S., it's going to be thousands and thousands of jobs. And I also had the opportunity to give him some ideas on things we think we can do to continue to drive the cost down on the F-35 program so it was a great meeting."
Trump last month said the costs of the acquisition effort -- the Pentagon's largest and estimated to cost roughly $400 billion for nearly 2,500 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps -- were "out of control" and suggested that he may consider replacing it with a version of the F-18E/F Super Hornet made by competitor Boeing Co.
Hewson met with Trump before Christmas and pledged to revamp the program. "I've heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35," she said at the time. "I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively."
Of course, Air Force generals who work on the program have already said procurement costs are decreasing as production ramps up and that a fourth-generation aircraft -- no matter how many new sensors and weapons it's equipped with -- can't compete against the fifth-generation stealth fighter.