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Lockheed tells Trump it will lower F-35’s costs, create new jobs

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Lockheed Martin Corp.’s chief told President-elect Donald Trump it’s close to a deal with the Pentagon to lower costs “significantly” for the next production lot of its F-35 fighter jet and will boost hiring at the Texas factory where the advanced aircraft is made.

Marillyn Hewson, chief executive officer of the world’s largest defense contractor, said she assured Trump in a Friday meeting that “I certainly share his views that we need to get the best capability to our men and women in uniform and we need to get it at the lowest possible price.”

Lockheed Martin and the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons system, have been favorite Trump targets on Twitter, injecting new uncertainty into contracting practices at a time when defense spending is expected to rise. “The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” Trump wrote in a December tweet. “Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th,” inauguration day.

After previous, inconclusive discussions with Trump, Hewson’s comments Friday may hit the sweet spot that has prompted approving tweets from the next president following his meetings with other corporate executives — both promising to cut costs to taxpayers and create jobs.

After her brief visit to Trump Tower in New York, Hewson told reporters the company is close to a deal that would break an impasse with the Pentagon over the 10th and largest-yet order for the F-35 Lightning II.

The contractor also plans to add 1,800 job in Fort Worth, Texas, where the F-35 is assembled, Hewson said. Lockheed has 98,000 employees, according to its website.

The Pentagon provided the company with a $1.28 billion down payment in November to continue production while the two sides hammer out a contract valued at as much as $7.19 billion for 90 aircraft.

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