Quickstep chief executive Mark Burgess has refuted US President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project, praising the program’s affordability and capabilities.
Speaking to Defence Connect, Burgess, who is CEO of one Australia's strongest contributing F-35 companies, said those involved in the F-35 supply chain strongly disagreed with the President's comments last December, when he tweeted "The F-35 program and cost is out of control".
"I think almost everybody in this supply chain and F-35, and most importantly the war fighters, would disagree with President Trump," said Burgess.
"I think the ability to acquire a fifth generation fighter for $85 million when you consider its competitors is remarkable. It's remarkable and it's gonna get cheaper, which is even more remarkable. [Because] defence escalation usually only goes one direction and that's up.
"Obviously it's a huge important program to my company, but we're really bullish about the program, and the price is gonna come down through genuine cost takeout. That is a really attractive sticker price for an aircraft of that type."
Although he praised the decreasing costs of the aircraft, Burgess did not shy away from the difficulties faced in the development phase of the program.
"It's a truly capable aircraft, it's had a very long gestation period, and it's had lots of trouble in the development phase," explained Burgess.
"That's kinda powerful of course in any major defence acquisition and this is the biggest ever. So, it's no surprise that there's been bumps along the way, but it's really good to see positive news flow around that program now because it is a truly unique capability."
But, like many of the aircraft's proponents, Burgess maintained the fighter plane is taking to the skies at just the right time.
"When you consider the threat environment that we are facing in the world today, it's come the right time and with a price tag frankly for the level of capability," said Burgess.
And achieving financial benefits for the company and its shareholders is just another bonus for the advanced composite manufacturing company.
"I don't wanna hand price over to the customer in its entirety," Burgess stated. "I want some for myself and my shareholders. So, it's about margin improvement as well as [generating] genuine cost down that we can get benefits to the program with."
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