What if Trump's next tweet is about the F-35?

Wednesday , December 07, 2016 - 5:30 AM22 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted this Tuesday, Dec. 6:

“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”

If he feels that strongly about the cost of Air Force One, imagine what he’d tweet about the F-35.

Air Force One isn’t just an upgraded commercial airliner — it’s a flying command post, built to protect the president in the event of nuclear war. Boeing was chosen in January 2015 to develop two new Air Force Ones, scheduled to become operational in the 2020s.

But the plane is early in its development process, according to Todd Harrison, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Very, very early,” Harrison told The Washington Post.

Including $2 billion for research and development, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated the program’s total cost at about $3.2 billion. Where Trump came up with the extra billion isn’t clear.

But we know the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, based at Hill Air Force Base — $400 billion. And we know it went $163 billion over budget.

We also know it’s the most sophisticated fighter jet in the air, it’s vital to Hill’s future, and Trump is suspicious of it.

During an October 2015 radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, said the F-35 is too expensive, he’s heard “that it’s not very good” and that “our existing planes are better.”

Not to worry, said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Republican whose district includes Hill AFB.

  • RELATED: “Members of Utah delegation say Trump's past F-35 comments nothing to fret over”

“The key element to it is how long ago that quote was made,” Bishop told Mitch Shaw, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner. “I think those he will appoint to serve in the Pentagon will have a clear understanding that this jet is the future of our national defense.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch sounded a similar note.

“In future conversations, I plan to emphasize the superior capabilities of the F-35 and the indispensable role this aircraft plays in our national defense strategy,” Hatch said in an email to the Standard. “The F-35 has overcome many of the inevitable problems that occur when fielding any new fighter.”

But all of that was before Trump tweeted about Air Force One.

Bishop, Hatch and the rest of Utah’s congressional delegation need to reach out to Trump’s transition team and begin defending the F-35 immediately. So does Gov. Gary Herbert.

Because if Trump’s already calling for the cancellation of the Air Force One program, he could just as easily target the F-35 — and that’s a potential disaster for Northern Utah.

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