Following a tumultuous few weeks for the relationship between President Donald Trump and defense contractor Lockheed Martin, Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered an immediate review of the F-35 program.
The review will assess opportunities for cost reduction, as well as compare it to Boeing’s F-18 program, which Mattis described in the memo as a possible alternative.
Trump took to Twitter late last year to publicly disparaged the costs of Lockheed’s F-35 program.
The above Tweet sent Lockheed Martin’s stock plummeting in the hours after it was published and prompted Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson to meet with Trump twice to discuss F-35 program costs.
During Lockheed’s fourth quarter call Tuesday, Hewson sounded optimistic about the meetings and said the company was very close to negotiating a deal with the Department of Defense for 90 additional F-35 jets.
“I have welcomed the opportunity to talk to [Trump], because it gives me the opportunity to share with him what we have been doing in terms of bringing the costs down,” Hewson said. “He welcomed that discussion.”
But Thursday’s memo seems to suggest a modified Boeing F-18 Super Hornet may now be in the running as a possible alternative to the expensive F-35.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work will not only review the F-35 for cost-reduction opportunities, but also will “assess the extent that F/A-18E/F improvements (an advanced Super Hornet) can be made in order to provide competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative.”
Mattis has also ordered a review of Boeing’s Air Force One program, which Trump similarly spoke out against on Twitter last year.
For its part, Lockheed Martin has stayed cool, releasing a statement in support of the review.
“Lockheed Martin stands ready to support Secretary Mattis’ review of the F-35 program and welcomes the appropriate focus on affordability and capability. 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 Martin is a Maryland-based global aerospace and defense company with locations in Denver, Englewood and Littleton.
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