Retired Marine General James Mattis has backed the F-35 after it was recently criticised by President-elect Donald Trump.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Hartford Courant newspaper that Mattis gave a “clear commitment to the continuation of the F-35”.
Blumenthal said later
“I was encouraged by his clear commitment to American air superiority and important role of the F-35 in sustaining and enhancing it.”
The speculation started after a string of tweets posted by President-elect Donald Trump were interpreted by many to signal the end of the F-35.
It’s now clear that Trump sought to cut F-35 costs, not cancel the hugely valuable programme which supports more than 151,000 direct and indirect jobs in the US and tens of thousands more around the world.
Marillyn Hewson President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin said she had a “very good conversation” with Trump and that she had “heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35”, according to a statement released by Lockheed Martin.
Trump tweeted earlier in the month:
“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!”
Hewson added later that the conversation was “productive” and that she had “conveyed our commitment to delivering an affordable aircraft to our military and our allies.”
The president-elect later relented, revealing his intentions and confirming what many in the industry had suspected, that this was simply an effort to drive down costs.
“It’s a little bit of a dance. But we’re going to get the cost down.”
At peak, the F-35 will support 25,000 jobs in the UK over the next few decades and pump £1bn a year into the economy.
Cliff Robson, Senior Vice-President for the F-35 Lightning II programme at BAE Systems, said in an interview, referring to the estimated British 25,000 jobs either directly created or supported in the F-35 supply chain.
“It’s cheap when you look at what that investment is returning to the UK.”
When the jet reaches peak production, the programme will be worth some £1 billion to UK industry alone, according to research by KPMG the accounting firm. An estimated 25,000 UK jobs will be sustained across more than 500 companies in the supply chain.
The F-35 features a significant amount of British developed components, in addition to 15% of every jet sold globally being built in Britain. As the only Level 1 partner, the United Kingdom has garnered tremendous economic benefits from the F-35. British industry will build 15% of each of the more than 3,000 planned F-35s, in addition to a large volume of British developed aircraft systems including the electronic warfare suite.
The programme at peak will generate significant export revenue and GDP growth for the US, UK and many other partner nations.