Lockheed Martin CEO promises Trump she’ll cut F-35 costs, possibly saving thousands of Conn. jobs

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NEW YORK — Lockheed Martin’s CEO gave President-elect Donald Trump her “personal commitment” to cut the cost of the stealthy F-35 fighter jet.

Marillyn Hewson said she had a “very good conversation” with Trump Friday, the day after he tweeted that he was considering replacing the costly F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with a modified version of a cheaper jet.

“I’ve heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35,” Hewson said in a statement. “I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively.”

She added, “We’re ready to deliver.”

F-35 engines are built in Middletown, Connecticut, and West Palm Beach, Florida. Sen. Richard Blumenthal spoke to FOX 61 on Friday about the ramifications ending the program would have in Connecticut.

“Ending or reducing the production of the F-35 is not only bad for national security and increases the cost of each plane, but also, it will mean jobs — losses of job for Connecticut, as well as losses in air superiority. Our troops should never face a fair fight,” Blumenthal said. “What reducing or ending our program would mean for Connecticut is not a few jobs, it’s thousands and thousands of jobs that we’ve worked and fought to achieve.”

Earlier in the week, Trump extracted a promise from Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg to lower the cost of building new Air Force One jets after Trump said estimated costs were “out of control.”

Trump has pitted aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing against each other by suggesting Thursday the F-35 could be replaced with Boeing’s F-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 tweeted.

Blumenthal commented on the newborn competition, saying, “Phasing out the (F-35) program and adopting F-18 not only deprives Connecticut of jobs, it deprives our nation of air superiority.”

Trump’s message about a need to reduce costs followed a Wednesday meeting with Hewson and Muilenburg to discuss their respective government deals.

Hewson said at the time that the conversation was “productive,” and that she had “conveyed our continued commitment to delivering an affordable aircraft to our U.S. military and our allies.”

The president-elect, however, told members of the press that he was concerned over the F-35’s price tag.

“It’s a little bit of a dance. But we’re going to get the cost down,” he said, calling the F-35 program “very, very—uhhh—expensive.”

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s largest single program, and is likely to cost the government around $400 billion over the next 22 years.

Still, BLumenthal thinks that with the right briefings, Trump would see the necessity of the F-35 program. “The idea that we’re gonna substitute the F18, which is a fourth-generation fighter, for a plane with the stealth and strength of an F-35 seems pretty misguided.”