Trudeau deflects questions about Trump’s F-35 comments

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is side-stepping questions about U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s latest doubts about the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter program.

Trump used Twitter earlier in the day on Dec. 12, 2016, to say the F-35 program and cost is “out of control.”

F-35 in flight
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has been critical of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter program. Mike Luedey Photo
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“Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th,” said Trump, referring to the date he is scheduled to be sworn in as the 45th U.S. President and commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The remarks echoed a radio interview in late October in which he said that reconsideration of the program was based on reviews by pilots who had flown the F-35.

“I do hear that it’s not very good,” he said. “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’. . . . When I hear that, immediately I say we have to do something.”

Trudeau, asked whether Trump’s comments “vindicated” his own criticisms of the Lockheed Martin program, replied: “Canadians have seen that over the past decade, the previous government completely botched the procurement process for fighter jets and we needed a process that would be an open competition to allow the merits of the various airplanes that could be replacing our fighter fleet to be examined in a rational and responsible way.”

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He added that by not replacing the current Boeing CF-188 Hornets in a “timely manner by an open and transparent competition,” the former Conservative administration had left Canada unable to fulfill military alliance commitments.

That was why the Liberals had opted for “an interim process” to negotiate the purchase of 18 F/A-18 Super Hornets as a stopgap until a replacement for the current fighter fleet could be selected.

When asked how the possibility of Trump cutting F-35 costs–once he takes office–might affect Canada’s acquisition, he repeated his decision to have “an open competition” to replace the CF-188s.

“That’s something that Canadians expect us to do and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” he said.

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