Canberra, Jan 2 US President-elect Donald Trump's attack on warplane manufacturer Lockheed Martin could cut millions of dollars off Australia's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Programme, a leading defence expert said on Monday.
Late last year, Trump tweeted the Joint Strike Fighter programme had become "very, very expensive", threatening to shut it down if delays and costs continue to blow out, Xinhua news agency reported.
Defence expert Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said while it would be disastrous for Astralia's defence plans if Trump decides to cancel the $379 billion programme, but if Trump's public criticism results in a cut-priced fighter, Australia invariably benefits. "If Trump can negotiate a lower price, then there is a potential upside for Australia, absolutely," Davies said.
Australia has rights to an additional 58 F-35s, and if Lockheed Martin cuts the price even by only five per cent, it would create an overall saving of around $232 million. Australia's Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has maintained that the country was still "committed to the JSF programme".
"It is well advanced and will produce the world's most potent fighter aircraft. We will work closely with the incoming US administration to maximise the benefits to Australia of the programme," Pyne said. "Obviously, if we can reduce the cost and prevent further delays, we will do so as a partner country in the JSF programme."
Lockheed Martin chief executive Marillyn Hewson has previously said the company will attempt to "aggressively" drive down the cost of the delayed and costly fighter in response to Trump's actions. "I had a very good conversation with Trump. I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively," Hewson said.