After President-elect Donald Trump commented that he thought that the cost of the beleaguered F-35 jet program was too high, the stock of its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, plummeted. Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear speaks with Pierre Sprey, formerly with the F-16 design team, about the F-35’s systemic problems and whether Trump can overcome them.
Coming behind US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter‘s visit to Israel, during a delivery of the first two F-35s, Trump 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.” Sprey called the F-35 a “hopelessly ineffective airplane,” saying, “I applaud what Trump said. It was entirely correct, it’s been true for years. Whether he can deliver on that remains to be seen. The military industrial complex has enormous power to keep the money flowing, but we will see.” Loud & Clear host Brian Becker noted that Lockheed Martin’s stock valuation dropped some $2 billion after Trump’s tweet, and asked Sprey what he thought the incoming President’s motivation was, to be so critical of the warcraft. While the delays, malfunctions and costs of the F-35 fighter jet pile higher and higher, the main contractors for the notoriously over-budget and overdue program threw record amounts of money towards politicians in 2014. © Flickr/ United States Marine Corps Trump Promises Changes to ‘Out of Control’ F-35 Program “I would suspect that he has some advisors that know something about defense and the F-35 has been the leading scandal in the entire defense budget for 10 years.” he replied. “Remember, this is the world’s largest military procurement program ever. Completely dwarfs the development of the atomic bomb, the development of intercontinental missiles, nothing has ever cost as much.” Sprey pointed out that just the purchase price of the jets will cost American taxpayers some $400 billion, and that by the end of the F-35’s lifespan the program will have cost an estimated $1.5 trillion. Along with a hefty price tag, the F-35 has also been beset with technical issues. Fifteen operational aircrafts were grounded in October when insulations was found decomposing in the coolant tubes, ejector seats were found to be hazardous to pilot’s lives, and helmets, which run about $400,000, were blinding pilots with a green glow, greatly increasing the difficulty of night time landing. F-35 fighter jet is seen at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Texas © Photo: Lockheed Martin Contractor Lockheed Martin Defends F-35 Fighter Cost Against Trump Criticism “It’s lot of money for something that not only doesn’t work, but actually harms American airpower.” Sprey detailed, “For every F-35 you buy, you’re foregoing the opportunity to upgrade and refurbish existing fighters that work far better right now than the F-35 will ever work. You could upgrade five fighters for every F-35 you buy.” He added that the jet is not often flown, making it difficult to have adequate numbers in enemy skies and making it “impossible to have thoroughly competent, highly skilled pilots.” F-35 © Flickr/ Gonzalo Alonso Scandinavia Unperturbed About Trump’s Tirades on F-35 Becker offered, “It’s a perfect storm. There’s a lot of money to be made by the manufacturer [and] the military industrial complex, so the F-35 and all of its subcontractors are spread out all over the country, in other words all these politicians in Congress have some stake in the maintenance of this project that doesn’t work. At the same time, once you’ve spent a lot of money it’s hard to stop spending money and declare a program a failure.” Sprey agreed, saying, “That’s exactly what Donald Trump is against. My prediction is that he will not be able to prevail. When you’re facing a $1.5 trillion juggernaut, even if you’re as determined a man as Donald Trump, you’re not going to make a very big dent in this program.”
Read more: https://sputniknews.com/military/201612141048569654-trump-criticizes-fighter-jet-program/