Trump: I’ve saved US billions on F-35 fighters

02:27 - Source: CNN
The U.S. military's $400B fighter jet (2016)

Story highlights

Trump says his intervention is responsible for massive costs cuts in US' most expensive weapons program

But government watchdogs say stealth fighter program still costing $1 billion more than it should

Washington CNN —  

President Donald Trump again used the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to tout his prowess as a negotiator, promising additional savings on the $400 billion program despite warnings from a non-partisan federal watchdog agency that testing delays could increase costs by more than a billion dollars.

In an interview with the Associated Press published on Monday, Trump reiterated that he was directly responsible for helping save $700 million on a February order of 90 F-35s – adding that costs will continue to shrink as more planes are delivered.

“Now you know that’s a saving of billions and billions of dollars, many billions of dollars over the course of — it’s between 2,500 and 3,000 planes will be the final order,” Trump said in the interview, projecting additional savings as the aircraft ramps up production.

“This was a thing that was out of control and now it’s great,” Trump added, referencing a February statement in which Lockheed Martin credited Trump for helping to “accelerate negotiations.”

Trump’s optimistic outlook regarding what is already the most expensive weapons system in history stands in stark contrast to projections made by the Government Accountability Office in its annual review of the F-35 program. That was also released on Monday.

01:36 - Source: CNN
John McCain: F-35 fighter program 'a scandal'

Citing “cascading testing delays,” the GAO concluded that additional flight testing will delay full production of the aircraft, which is scheduled for April 2019, by a year and could cost the Department of Defense more than a billion dollars more than what was budgeted in 2011 when the program was restructured.

While the program’s developmental phase is close to 90% complete, the watchdog agency recommended that the Pentagon refrain from making “significant new investments” in the fighter jet until the entire testing process is finished.

The Pentagon’s F-35 program office is downplaying the GAO’s assessment, estimating a flight testing delay of five months and describing program costs as “stable.”