Yesterday, President-elect Donald Trump publicly slammed the Joint Strike Fighter on Twitter, saying, “The F-35 program and cost is out of control.” However, speaking overnight to journalists in London, the Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne defended the jet, stating that the JSF “is the most potent weapon in the air”.
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Minister Pyne, while on a tour of Europe to build on existing defence relationships, was quick to shield Australia’s decision to continue with the order of 72 JSF’s at an estimated cost of $17 billion despite several initial setbacks and cost increases in the production of the aircraft.
“We’re very confident that the Joint Strike Fighter is the right jet for Australia and for the United States and the rest of the world,” he said to the press.
“Whether it has been efficiently managed from the United States’ point of view, in terms of their cost and delays and so on, is really a matter for them and for President-elect Trump’s opinion.”
Trump is due to be sworn in on the 20th January. His attack on the JSF and manufacturer Lockheed Martin raised alarms for the future of the JSF project as he stated “billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th”.
Lockheed Martin's market value has plummeted by US$4 billion ($5.3 billion) since the tweet went live.
Australia has committed to an initial order of 72 F-35A’s, with the first two jets arriving in country in 2018. The JSF’s will be based out of RAAF bases Williamtown and Tindal, where extensive work is currently being done and future projects planned in preparation for their arrival.