Presidential candidate Donald Trump is finally offering some specifics when it comes to defense policy, and on conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program today he floated the possibility of cancelling the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program if he gets elected.
According to the Air Force Times, Trump said: “When they say that this cannot perform as well as the planes we already have, what are [we] doing, and spending so much more money?” He continued, “I do hear that it’s not very good... I’m hearing that our existing planes are better. And one of the pilots came out of the plane, one of the test pilots, and said this isn’t as good as what we already have.”
Trump was apparently referring to the test pilot report leaked last June describing the F-35A’s less than stellar air combat maneuvering capabilities when compared to an F-16 with external fuel tanks.
Trump concluded by saying this:
“Test pilots are amazing people. They know better than anybody... They’re saying it doesn’t perform as well as our existing equipment, which is much less expensive. So when I hear that, immediately I say we have to do something, because you know, they’re spending billions. This is a plane. There’s never been anything like it in terms of cost.”
It’s one thing if Trump believes the F-35 isn’t a good value for America. It’s another thing entirely if he thinks he can justify canceling the entire program based on one test report. The decision to procure the F-35 or not should be one based on force structure design, relevance against emerging threats, development, procurement, sustainment and opportunity costs as well as comparative capabilities.
The fact that the F-35 is a poor within-visual-range fighter is definitely another mark against it, but that is only one factor of modern air combat.
Still, knowing how The Donald likes to hammer away at a few key examples to validate his proposed policies, we will probably hear a whole lot more about the F-35 from him in the future.
Now the question is, for a guy who continously says he wants the biggest and best military ever, what would he procure in the F-35’s place?
Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com
Photo credits: F-35 via Defensie.nl, Trump via AP