Lockheed CEO tells Trump she will work to drive down cost of F-35

WASHINGTON: The chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp told President-elect Donald Trump that she was committed to driving down the cost of the company’s F-35 fighter jet, a day after Trump took aim at the cost of the F-35 in a Twitter post.
CEO Marillyn Hewson said she spoke with Trump and assured him that she had heard his message “loud and clear” about reducing the cost of the F-35.
Trump suggested that an older aircraft made by rival aerospace company Boeing Co could offer a cheaper alternative to the F-35.
“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!” Trump said.
Hewson, in a statement posted on Twitter, said she had “a very good conversation” with Trump on Friday.
“I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively,” she said in the statement.
Lockheed shares closed down 1.3 per cent on Friday, nearing their lowest levels since the November 8 election. They were the biggest drag on a basket of defence-related stocks. Boeing’s stock ended near the unchanged mark.
Trump had met with the chief executives of both Lockheed and Boeing on Wednesday.
Boeing’s F-18 is an older generation aircraft that lacks the stealth capabilities of the F-35.
One US official said it was impossible to tell what Trump meant by his tweet, given the importance of stealth technology as a way to counter advanced defences of near-peer states, like Russia or China.
“Somebody needs to ask Donald Trump how he’s going to be able to confront China without aircraft capable of penetrating anti-access and area denial systems, including air defences,” the official said. Most defence analysts do not consider the two jets as comparable aircraft.
“Impractical if not irrational,” Richard Safran, a defence analyst at Buckingham Research, said by e-mail. “First, the F/A-18 is a carrier-based naval fighter. Certainly it could not meet the US Marine Corps need for vertical lift. It would not be suitable for the Air Force either —the extra weight of a carrier fighter makes it less than ideal for the Air Force.”
“Unless the rules of physics have changed, you cannot make a non-stealthy, two-engined, carrier-based aircraft from the 1980s into a single-engine, multi-role stealthy fighter from the 2000s,” Vertical Research Partners analysts wrote in a note on Friday. — Agencies