The head of defense giant Lockheed Martin on Tuesday said President Trump “absolutely did contribute” to the company’s speedy deal on the F-35.
Lockheed chief executive Marillyn Hewson said Trump’s involvement in the February deal was “perfectly appropriate,” adding that the company has now set a goal to save more than $5 billion on the aircraft.
“We were in discussions … and he helped accelerate that along, and I think he put a sharper focus on price and how we would drive the price down,” Hewson told reporters at a Lockheed media event in Arlington, Va. “So he absolutely did contribute to us getting to closure on that.”
The most recent Pentagon purchase of the F-35, called Lot 10, includes 90 aircraft — 55 for the U.S. military and 35 for international partners. The $8.5 billion purchase brought down the price from the last batch of planes by $728 million and dropped the cost of the F-35A variant below $100 million for the first time.
Trump — who bashed the F-35 program as being too expensive while on the campaign trail and wrote on Twitter in December that costs were “out of control” — took credit for the driving down the price. Analysts and Pentagon insiders argued the price would have come down year over year, regardless of his involvement.
Hewson did admit cost reductions would have continued as more planes are bought but said Trump’s “emphasis and his engagement did absolutely make a difference.”
“Since his election, President Trump has made clear that he and his administration will be focusing on ensuring that the government is a smart buyer, getting the most for the taxpayer’s dollar,” Hewson said. “In our positive and constructive dialogues over the last few months we were able to communicate how Lockheed Martin is fully aligned with these efforts.”
The Pentagon is currently negotiating the next block buy of 120 F-35s. Costs for the aircraft are expected to be more than $10 billion.
Hewson said Trump “has not been involved” in those negotiations, but the company is “working well” with Defense Department officials and experts to have a deal by the end of the year.