Battle Between Fighter Jets? Trump Pits Boeing Against Lockheed Martin

By Defense FOXBusiness

(Lockheed Martin)

President-elect Donald Trump might be setting up a huge battle between fighter jets.

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Trump has blasted Pentagon suppliers Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Boeing (BA) for cost overruns and now seems to be pitting the two companies against each other.

The incoming Republican president targeted Boeing for what he called “out of control” costs—an estimated $4 billion—to build two new Air Force One jets. He later called out Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, for high costs and delays associated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Trump met with the CEOs of both companies on Wednesday. A day later, Trump said he put in a request to Boeing: How much would it cost to build a new F/A-18 Super Hornet?

“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 wrote on Twitter (TWTR).

Shares of Lockheed Martin fell as much as 2.3% on Friday morning, although the stock recovered some of its losses by midday. The Bethesda, Md.-based company was trading 1% lower at $250.21 a share.

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“We have committed to working with the president-elect and his administration to provide the best capability, deliverability and affordability across all Boeing products and services to meet our national security needs,” Boeing said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin declined to comment.

In the wake of Trump’s initial criticism, Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s general manager for the F-35 program, said the company would “welcome the opportunity to address any questions the president-elect has about the program.” He added that Lockheed Martin continues to work on making the versatile fighter less expensive to build and maintain.

The F-35 Lightning II, the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history, has come under fire from Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The total bill has nearly doubled to $400 billion following production and design issues. The program is also running about four years behind schedule.

The U.S. military has said the F-35 serves a wide range of roles, different than those of the F/A-18. The F-35 was designed to replace multiple existing fighter jets, including the F/A-18, F-16 and A-10.

Although the F-35 has outlasted the F/A-18 in most of their recent battles for government contracts, Canada decided last month to cancel its order with Lockheed Martin. Instead, Canada will order additional F/A-18 from Boeing, citing the F-35’s price tag. The country will still consider the F-35 as a long-term replacement in its fleet of fighter jets.

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