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'Potentially Disruptive': Rival CEO Listened In On Trump's F-35 Call

17 February 2017, 07:24 | Melvin Schneider

Days after Trump's inauguration, Lockheed and the Department of Defense announced the next F-35 contract, which saved around $738 million on the program.

Muilenburg, whose company makes a fighter jet Trump has suggested might replace one F-35 model, was in the president-elect's NY office for a meeting during the second call.

Trump's first call with Bogdan was on January 9, Bloomberg reported.

After Lockheed played Trump like a damn fool by attributing already-planned cost reductions to him, Trump suddenly decided that the F-35 was a "great plane" and chose to keep the fighter jet anyway. Perhaps as problematic as having Lockheed's rival in the room during the call was the fact that Trump directly reached out to the F-35 program manager not once, but twice, about a contract finalized 16 years ago.

The cost reduction "would've happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected president", Loren Thompson, president of the Lexington Institute, a top defense industry consulting firm, told Politico.

"The things I talked about in front of Mr. Muilenburg were clearly publicly releasable information", Bogdan said. "He asked a lot of very, very, very good questions because he was in the learning mode", Bogdan told Bloomberg of Trump's calls to him.

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That discussion centered around the F-35 and the presidential aircraft. But given that the F-35 is the most expensive weapons program in history, Trump might be forgiven for defying conventional procedures to accomplish one of his campaign goals.

There's probably not much Boeing could do to make its jet comparable to the F-35. "That complimentary capacity of the Super Hornet and the capability of the F-35C is going to handle us well in the near term and as we continue to grow that capability embarked". As a so-called fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 is stealthier and is equipped with more advanced radar, sensors and communications systems.

However, the procurement of F-35B aircraft, the Marine Corps version, will remain approximately the same.

Aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia said in an e-mail that "Trump seems to really like interfering in the requirements process" but "hopefully, he realizes that the Super Hornet/F-35 battle only impacts a very small part of the F-35 program". The Pentagon's first Quadrennial Defense Review in May 1997 said that "should Joint Strike Fighter development be delayed additional F/A-18E/Fs" beyond planned quantities "may be added later as appropriate to sustain planned forces".

The F-35 review will look at "opportunities to significantly reduce the cost" as well as compare the F-35C to an upgraded Super Hornet.



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