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Boeing CEO, Trump Meet Again to Talk Air Force One, Fighters

The chief executive officer of the world's largest aerospace company on Tuesday met again with the president-elect to talk about the cost of future Air Force One aircraft and fighter jets.

Dennis Muilenburg said he had an "excellent conversation" with Donald Trump yesterday at Trump Tower in New York City.

"We talked about a couple of topics," he said, according to a press pool report. "We discussed Air Force One. We discussed fighter aircraft."

Muilenburg added, "We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices. All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I'm pleased with the progress there. And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably."

The meeting came days after Trump met with Lockheed Martin Corp. Chief Executive Officer Marillyn Hewson, who afterward pledged to "significantly" reduce the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- the Pentagon's most expensive acquisition program, estimated to cost roughly $400 billion to buy nearly 2,500 stealth fighters.

The president-elect's latest get-together with the defense contractors is the second in as many months. He previously summoned the leaders to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump began applying public pressure to the companies' defense programs on Dec. 6, when he tweeted, "Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!"

A week later, on Dec. 12, he targeted Lockheed Martin's F-35 when he tweeted, "The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th."

Before Christmas, on Dec. 23, he hinted at possible renewed competition between the defense giants, "Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!" he tweeted on Thursday evening.

The Boeing-made F/A-18E/F Super Hornet doesn't offer the same level of stealth or sensor technology as the F-35, though the Chicago-based aerospace giant has previously argued that the capabilities of the twin-engine electronic attack variant EA-18G Growler eclipse the Joint Strike Fighter's stealth advantage. And, of course, the Super Hornet is significantly cheaper.

To be sure, the Trump tweets have raised plenty of questions throughout the defense industry.

Muilenburg didn't go into specifics regarding the discussions over fighter aircraft, but he suggested a deal on lowering the cost of an Air Force program to develop two or possibly three new Air Force One planes was close.

"I think we're making great progress, so I'm very encouraged by today's progress," he said. "I think it'll be in the very near term. And again, we're on the same page to provide the best capability for the lowest cost."

Muilenburg added, "Together, we're working through simplifying the requirements and streamlining the process and applying commercial best practices. That's going to lead to substantial cost reduction, so this is something that we're working together. And I appreciate the teamwork approach on this. I think it's the right way to do business."

The Boeing executive also praised Trump's business acumen.

"I think Mr Trump is doing a great job with engaging the business," he said. "We're all on the same page here. Our objective is to provide the best capability for our country most affordably. We want to generate jobs in the U.S."

Muilenburg added, "If you want manufacturing jobs, aerospace is the place to invest. We're proud to take on that mission. And I think Mr. Trump's engagement with industry is going to help us grow manufacturing jobs in this country."

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