President-elect Donald Trump caught many by surprise on Thursday with a public pricing request to Boeing for F/A-18 Super Hornets.
One day after meeting with CEOs from Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Donald Trump caught many by surprise with a tweet that was one part criticism, one part request for proposal.
The tweet, sent Thursday afternoon, called for Boeing to “price-out” a run of F/A-18 Super Hornets comparable to the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, whose production he said was plagued by “tremendous cost and cost overruns.”
The tweet built on comments made by Trump after meeting with executives from Lockheed Martin on Wednesday.
“We’re trying to get costs down, costs,” Trump told reporters after that meeting, according to Bloomberg. “Primarily the F-35. That program is very, very expensive.”
Lockheed Martin did not have an immediate immediate response to the tweet on Thursday.
Boeing said in a tweet that it is ready to work with the incoming administration.
Lockheed’s $379 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is intended to be the mainstay fighter of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, replacing several older planes including Boeing’s F/A-18, according to Bloomberg.
Lockheed plans to build more than 2,400 of the aircraft for the U.S. and allied air forces.
In the last 10 fiscal years, the F-35 program has had $81 billion in obligations, with the the fiscal 2017 defense authorization allowing an additional $9.9 billion.
Given the extensive investment in the F-35 program to date, the exact impact of Trump’s tweet wasn’t immediately clear. Lockheed shares fell 2 percent after Trump’s tweet in after hours trading, Bloomberg reported, while Boeing’s shares rose 0.5 percent.
Marcus Weisgerber, global business editor at the online industry site Defense One and vice president of the Pentagon Press Association, responded to Trump’s message by saying, “There’s no such thing as a comparable F/A-18.” The Boeing jet is less expensive, while the Lockheed fighter has stealth characteristics to better evade detection.
Weisgerber said Trump’s tweet is bound to have an effect on contract negotiations with Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson said in a statement after Wednesday’s meeting that she had assured Trump the company would continue efforts to reduce the F-35’s costs.
Hewson didn’t announce any new promises, and Trump didn’t say whether he had won any concessions.
“It’s a dance, you know. It’s a little bit of a dance,” Trump said Wednesday. “We’re going to get the costs down and we’re going to do it beautifully.”