Trump Had Boeing CEO Listen In On Call About Lockheed With General

Days before taking office, President-elect Donald Trump made two surprise calls to the Air Force general managing the Pentagon's largest weapons program, the Lockheed Martin Corp. The same day, Trump also met with Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg and Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson.

After a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told reporters that Trump made it clear that Muilenburg was on the other end of a January 17 call, adding that the discussion centered around the Air Force One replacement, which Boeing is building, as well as a comparison of the Navy's F-35C variant vs. a new version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet that Boeing is proposing. One of the people said the call was on speakerphone. The first, on January 9, was between him and Trump. About a dozen Pentagon officials were alerted to the calls after they occurred, the people said.

Boeing, too, faced Trump's wrath when he criticized potential spending on a new version of the Air Force One presidential airplane. Perhaps as problematic as having Lockheed's rival in the room during the call was the fact that Trump directly reached out to the F-35 program manager not once, but twice, about a contract finalized 16 years ago. "Behavior that looks decisive in the business world can unhinge a military organization that depends on order and discipline".

Following his January 17 meeting with Trump, Muilenburg said he "made some great progress" in his talks with the president-elect.

"The things I talked about in front of Mr. Muilenburg were clearly publicly releasable information", Bogdan said.

Lockheed declined to comment. "He asked a lot of very, very, very good questions because he was in the learning mode", Bogdan told Bloomberg of Trump's calls to him.

The call was first reported Thursday morning by Bloomberg.

"President Trump's personal involvement in the F-35 program accelerated the negotiations and sharpened our focus on driving down the price", Lockheed said in a statement.

Trump was attempting to gain more information on the programme's affordability, the Super Hornet and the Air Force One recapitalisation, which Boeing will execute, Bogdan says. "But you don't always need an F-35 to the job". The two aircraft have different capabilities and mission requirements. "That complimentary capacity of the Super Hornet and the capability of the F-35C is going to handle us well in the near term and as we continue to grow that capability embarked".

However, the procurement of F-35B aircraft, the Marine Corps version, will remain approximately the same.

The review directs Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to "oversee a review that compares F-35C and F/A-18 E/F operational capabilities and assesses the extent that F/A-18E/F improvements (an advanced Super Hornet) can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative".

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