US President-elect Donald Trump’s public attack on warplane manufacturer Lockheed Martin could cut millions of dollars off Australia’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, a leading defense expert said on Monday.
Late last year, Trump publicly tweeted that the Joint Strike Fighter program had become “very, very expensive”, threatening to shut down the program if delays and costs continue to blow out.
Defense expert Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has said while it would be disastrous for Australia’s defence plans if Trump decides to cancel the 379 billion U.S. dollar program, if Trump’s public criticism results in a cut-priced fighter, Australia invariably benefits.
“If Donald Trump can negotiate a lower price, then there is a potential upside for Australia, absolutely,” Davies told News Corp on Monday.
Australia has rights to an additional 58 F-35s, and if Lockheed Martin cuts the price even by only 5 percent, it would create an overall saving of around 232 million U.S dollars, News Corp reported.
Australia’s Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has maintained that Australia was still “committed to the JSF program”.
“It is well advanced and will produce the world’s most potent fighter aircraft. We will work closely with the incoming US administration to maximize the benefits to Australia of the program,” Pyne told News Corp.
“Obviously, if we can reduce the cost and prevent further delays, we will do so as a partner country in the JSF program.”
Lockheed Martin chief executive Marillyn Hewson has previously said the company will attempt to “aggressively” drive down the cost of the delayed and costly fighter in response to Trump’s actions.
“I had a very good conversation with president-elect Trump… I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively,” Hewson has previously tweeted. Enditem