Donald Trump is still nearly a month from being inaugurated and is already shaking things up in the incredibly overpriced defense contracting industry.

Threatening Lockheed Martin with abandoning the F-35 fighter contract in favor of a more cost-efficient F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet made by Boeing, Trump turned up the heat on Lockheed to sharpen its pencil and reduce the crazy expensive cost of the F-35, which Lockheed Martin’s CEO is promising to do.

Once upon a time, I was a young Army  captain assigned to the Air Defense Artillery Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. I was the Commanding General’s mouthpiece to the world. With a fat travel budget my job was to take teams to the field, brief battalion, brigade, and division commanders worldwide on developing air defense weapons systems, doctrinal changes, and training initiatives. All of this is unclassified now so I can talk about it.

Obviously, I had to be up to speed on our developing air defense weapons systems. At the time there were two competing divisional air defense weapons systems, The Sgt. York (or DIVAD), being developed by Ford Aerospace, and Roland, a French missile system that was far superior to the Sgt. York in nearly every aspect, and I won’t get down in the weeds with Roland’s technical, tactical, and strategic superiority, but in my professional view, and I considered myself an expert on the matter having just finished a three-year tour in an infantry division, there was no comparison between the Sgt. York and the Roland. The Roland was superior in every way and the per unit cost was a fraction of the cost of the Sgt. York. The two systems were competing for the Army’s fielding contract, even though in my learned view there was not competition.

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In the end Ford Aerospace got the contract to field the Sgt. York. I was shocked! I recall talking to the Deputy Commanding General about this, wondering how such an inferior weapons system as the Sgt. York could be chosen over the Roland. I recall him simply smiling at me. He said nothing. I took that to mean, “you have much to learn, grasshopper.” Indeed, I did.

I discovered later that the reason the Sgt. York was chosen over the Roland was because Ford Aerospace had a huge lobby on Capitol Hill. My naivete was replaced with anger and confusion. This decision could cost the lives of many American soldiers.

As a result I transferred out of the Air Defense branch, even though I understood it wasn’t the branch or the Commanding General’s fault that the Sgt. York was fielded in favor of the Roland. The York had been shoved down all our throats by the parasites in Congress. The eye-opening experience made me sick!

During development and fielding the Sgt. York ran into all sorts of problems, especially money problems, with huge cost overruns. A single battalion of about 40 units was fielded and forced onto the New Mexico National Guard, before the program was abandoned.

This voracious beast, the defense contracting world, is one of the biggest gators in the swamp President Trump aims to drain. God Bless him for it!

Pardon my digression. Back to President-elect Trump’s wrestling with the massive waste we call the F-35.

One “official” quoted by Reuters, in the article below seemed a little peeved that President-elect Trump would consider abandoning the F-35, apparently believing that Trump is naive and reckless….

“Somebody needs to ask Donald Trump how he’s going to be able to confront China without aircraft capable of penetrating anti-access and area denial systems, including air defenses,” the official said.

Simple, Mr. Official, we confront China the same way we have confronted everyone else. We begin by neutralizing their air defense capability from ABOVE the ceiling of their air defense weapons systems, as well as their air capability. Don’t forget, we took out the air defense and air capability of Saddam Hussein’s fourth-largest armed force in the world in a matter of hours, which fielded many of the same systems the Chinese and Russians use. It isn’t rocket science…. even though it is.

Gizmodo calls the F-35 the “Pentagon’s trillion-dollar embarrassment:” “It’s not news that the Pentagon’s fated F-35 program is riddled with dilemmas. For more than a decade, it’s bumped into roadblock after roadblock. When the planes aren’t grounded, they’re forbidden to fly in bad weather, combat missions or at night. Vanity Fair just published a lengthy look at just how bad a mess it is.

From Reuters

The chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp told President-elect Donald Trump on Friday that she was committed to driving down the cost of the company’s F-35 fighter jet, a day after Trump took aim at the cost of the F-35 in a Twitter post.

CEO Marillyn Hewson said she spoke with Trump on Friday afternoon and assured him that she had heard his message “loud and clear” about reducing the cost of the F-35.

Trump, in a tweet posted late on Thursday, suggested that an older aircraft made by rival aerospace company Boeing Co could offer a cheaper alternative to the F-35.

“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!” Trump said.

Hewson, in a statement posted on Twitter, said she had had “a very good conversation” with Trump on Friday.

“I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively,” she said in the statement.

Lockheed shares closed down 1.3 percent on Friday, nearing their lowest levels since the Nov. 8 election. They were the biggest drag on a basket of defense-related stocks. Boeing’s stock ended near the unchanged mark.

Trump had met with the chief executives of both Lockheed and Boeing on Wednesday.

Boeing’s F-18 is an older generation aircraft that lacks the stealth capabilities of the F-35.

One U.S. official said it was impossible to tell what Trump meant by his tweet, given the importance of stealth technology as a way to counter advanced defenses of near-peer states, like Russia or China.

“Somebody needs to ask Donald Trump how he’s going to be able to confront China without aircraft capable of penetrating anti-access and area denial systems, including air defenses,” the official said.

Most defense analysts do not consider the two jets as comparable aircraft.

“Impractical if not irrational,” Richard Safran, a defense analyst at Buckingham Research, said by email. “First, the F/A-18 is a carrier-based naval fighter. Certainly it could not meet the U.S. Marine Corps need for vertical lift. It would not be suitable for the Air Force either – the extra weight of a carrier fighter makes it less than ideal for the Air Force.”

“Unless the rules of physics have changed, you cannot make a non-stealthy, two-engined, carrier-based aircraft from the 1980s into a single-engine, multi-role stealthy fighter from the 2000s,” Vertical Research Partners analysts wrote in a note on Friday.

Still, Trump’s dissatisfaction with the program, which has been dogged by problems while costs have escalated to an estimated $379 billion, is a clear risk for Lockheed. The F-35 program is a critical sales generator for the company, accounting for 20 percent of last year’s total revenue of $46.1 billion.