Dems to Trump: F-35 substitute a 'total nonstarter'

Dems to Trump: F-35 substitute a 'total nonstarter'

A trio of Connecticut Democratic lawmakers is calling President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE’s calls for finding an alternative to the F-35 a “total nonstarter.”

“Any suggestion that there is a substitute for the F-35 is a total nonstarter,” Reps. Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro and John Larson said in a statement Friday. “This is a program that has been vetted ad nauseum by the Pentagon, the Congress and independent experts. There is simply no aircraft in production today that can compare with the F-35’s advanced avionics, networked capabilities and integrated stealth.”

On Thursday, Trump took aim at the F-35 fighter jet for the second time in as many weeks, tweeting that he wants to explore a “comparable F-18.”

“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet,” he tweeted.

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The F-18 is a fourth-generation plane and does not have the capabilities that define the fifth generation F-35, including stealth. If Trump is serious about redesigning the F-18, that could mean years of development and billions of dollars.

The tweet came a day after Trump met separately with the chief executives of Boeing and Lockheed. After the meetings, he said he would get costs down “beautifully.”

“It’s a dance,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a little bit of a dance, but we’re gonna get the cost down, and we’re gonna get it down beautifully. I think we’re looking to cut a tremendous amount of money.”

The F-35 program has been plagued by numerous cost and time overruns, prompting backlash from lawmakers looking to curtail Pentagon waste.

But supporters say the issues were in the research and development phase. Now that the planes are in production, they say, the price per unit is going down.

A push by Trump to curtail the F-35 program could draw heavy pushback from lawmakers whose districts stand to lose jobs, as Lockheed has spread work on the F-35 to hundreds of subcontractors in 45 states.

For example, Courtney, DeLauro and Larson’s home state of Connecticut is home to Pratt and Whitney, the company manufacturing the F-35's engine.

Courtney is on the House Armed Services Committee and is the ranking member of its Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. Larson is a co-chairman of the bipartisan F-35 Caucus. DeLauro is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

In their statement, the lawmakers said Trump’s suggestion would waste further time and money.

“Many years of hard work by industry and our military leaders have gotten this program on track and on a path of declining costs,” they said. “Rather than waste time and money interrupting our nation’s upgrade to a fifth-generation fighter, it’s time to work together to find more saving and efficiencies for the American taxpayer.”