Donald Trump Tweet Takes Aim At F-35 Stealth Jets

Donald Trump Tweet Takes Aim At F-35 Stealth Jets

Donald Trump lashed out on Twitter against the fighter jet programme. (File Photo)

Nevatim Air Base, Israel:  The US F-35 stealth fighter programme suffered a dual blow Monday as President-elect Donald Trump blasted "out of control" costs and bad weather delayed a delivery ceremony in Israel.

As US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter was in Israel to mark the delivery of the first two of 50 F-35s to be bought from aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, Trump lashed out on Twitter against the fighter jet programme.

"The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th," Trump said, referring to his inauguration day.

Lockheed Martin's stock tumbled 4.3 percent shortly after the tweet, which prompted a response from the company.

With a current development and acquisition price tag of $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft -- most of them destined for the US Air Force -- the plane is the most expensive in history.

Once servicing and maintenance costs are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall programme costs are expected to soar to $1.5 trillion.

Speaking at the landing site in southern Israel, Jeff Babione, Lockheed's programme manager for the F-35s, told journalists the firm was confident that the planes represented a good deal.

"It's great value and I look forward to any questions that the president-elect may have," he said.

Five hours late

In Israel, the first two F-35s were due to land at Nevatim air base in the country's south at around 7:45 pm (1745 GMT), more than five hours late after being delayed by bad weather in Italy, believed to be fog.

Some 4,000 people had been expected to watch the landings but the crowds thinned as the landing was delayed.

A Lockheed official said the delay was caused by Italian air safety regulations, rather than any limitation of the planes, but it did not stop criticism.

"Here's hoping we only go to war on sunny days..." one Israeli joked on Twitter.

The row and the long delay in the fighters' arrival threatened to overshadow what Israel had labelled a key day in its military's future.

While other countries have ordered the planes, Israel -- which receives more than $3 billion a year in US defence aid -- says it will be the first outside the United States with an operational F-35 squadron.

Carter and Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman were joined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the ceremony.

Lieberman said in a statement beforehand that "the F-35 constitutes another element allowing us to maintain our aerial superiority in the region".

Carter called the two F-35s "a symbol of the United States' unshakable commitment to Israel's security".

Israel is buying its first 33 F-35s at an average price of about $110 million (103.5 million euros) each.

It will be receiving the F-35A model for standard takeoffs and landings. The B and C models are for short takeoffs and aircraft carriers.

Israeli components will be integrated in the plane, which will be known as the F-35I.

Supersonic stealth

Among the aircraft's main features are advanced stealth capabilities to help pilots evade sophisticated missile systems.

The single-pilot jets can carry an array of weapons and travel at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6, or around 1,200 miles per hour (1,900 kilometres per hour).

The pilot's ultra-high-tech helmet, at a cost of some $400,000 each, includes its own operating system, with data that appears on the visor and is also shared elsewhere.

Thermal and night vision as well as 360-degree views are possible with cameras mounted on the plane.

They are seen as helping the country maintain its edge in the Middle East, particularly as its main enemy Iran seeks further influence in the region.

Israel is especially concerned over whether Iran will seek to develop nuclear weapons by violating the international accord it has signed with world powers.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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