It wasn’t long ago that a certain notorious President-elect used Twitter to complain about something a manufacturer was doing.
When Donald Trump took Lockheed Martin to task over the ballooning costs of the military’s F-35 fighter jet project, the company did two things – one, lost a crapload of value in the stock market, if temporarily and two, promised a new contract deal that would cut the cost of the program, and create jobs.
But, on the heels of a meeting last week between Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson and Donald Trump, several news outlets are publicizing a new report from the Pentagon that does not paint a very rosy picture of the F-35 program.
The report identifies a litany of problems and delays and predicts that we won’t see full combat capability from the F-35 until late 2018 or early 2019, at the soonest. The report goes on to note that 276 deficiencies in combat performance have been designated as "critical to correct,” and that new deficiencies are being discovered at a rate of about 20 every month.
A follow-up by Gizmodo calls the operational performance of the aircraft “a complete joke,” highlighting poor flying qualities while breaking the sound barrier, overheating problems and cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
Currently, an F-35A has a sticker price of about $100 million, but Lockheed predicts these prices will improve 25 percent or so over the next few years. That is, of course, if the next few years are productive enough that the costs of the program don’t continue to balloon out of control. But don’t worry: if they do, you’ll be sure to hear about. On Twitter.