President-elect Donald Trump took aim on Monday at yet another expensive aircraft program with Georgia ties, this time the F-35 stealth fighter.
Trump took to Twitter to bash Lockheed Martin’s advanced fighter program as calls ratcheted up on Capitol Hill for a probe into suspected Russian meddling in the November presidential election.
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”
Lockheed’s sprawling plant in Cobb County makes center wing assemblies for the F-35 program. More than 5,000 people are employed at the factory at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
Lockheed’s stock price and the shares of other defense contractors dipped following the president-elect’s message, particularly companies that make components for the elusive jet. Lockheed shares were down about 2.5 percent towards the end of trading Monday.
The $379 billion program, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, comes in variants for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Lockheed plans to sell the next-generation fighter to a number of U.S. allies, including Japan, Israel, South Korea and the U.K.
As Bloomberg has noted, the program has suffered delays and technology setbacks.
Lockheed responded to Trump in an address by Jeff Baboine, a company executive vice president and head of the F-35 program, at a ceremony to mark delivery to Israeli armed services.
The remarks, posted on the company’s website, said Lockheed “welcome(s) the opportunity to address any questions the president-elect has about the program. It’s a great program.”
Lockheed said the company has invested heavily to reduce costs.
“We project the price of the aircraft will be $85 million in the 2019 -2020 timeframe,” Baboine said in his remarks. “When we get to $85 million, the F-35 will be less expensive than any fourth-generation fighter in the world. And it will be the premiere fifth-generation fighter. That’s an incredible value for anyone operating the airplane.”
It’s the second time this month Trump has criticized a military plane program with a Georgia link. Last week, Trump blasted the potential cost of the program to replace the presidential aircraft, known as Air Force One when the head of state is aboard.
His broadside against Boeing came the same day Pond & Co., a Georgia architecture firm, announced it had won a contract with a partner to design the $250 million hangar complex for the future Air Force One. The project would be built at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland outside of Washington, D.C.