Trump flirting with big Super Hornet order

By: Valerie Insinna

WASHINGTON — At the rollout of Boeing’s newest commercial airliner, President Donald Trump indicated his administration could be looking at a large Super Hornet order. Huge, even.

“We are going to fully rebuild our military. By the way, do you care if we use the F-18 Super Hornets? Or do you only care about—what do you think?” Trump said Friday, addressing veterans and servicemembers in the crowd at a Boeing plant in North Charleston, S.C. “We are looking seriously at a big order. We’ll see how that [goes].”

Trump’s trip marks a growing relationship between the new president and Boeing, which has been a target of both his praise and scorn. In December, Trump tweeted that the Air Force One replacement, which is to be helmed by Boeing, should be cancelled because of what he viewed as inordinate expense.

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After meeting Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg later that month and getting his promise that the program would not exceed $4 billion, Trump warmed on the company. The president has even positioned the Super Hornet as a direct competitor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

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Speaking today in South Carolina, Trump joked that, although he wants to buy more Super Hornets, “the problem is that Dennis [Muilenburg] is a very, very tough negotiator.”

“But I think we may get there,” he added.

During his time at the Boeing facilities, Trump met with a number of company executives, including Muilenburg. A pool report noted that before the speech, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was holding a brochure for the F/A-18 XT — another name for the “Block 3” or Advanced Super Hornet. That model is being considered as a potential rival to the F-35C,  the naval variant designed to take off from an aircraft carrier.

After the speech, Trump told reporters that, unless prices continued coming down on the F-35, he would be prepared to cut future F-35 contracts and order more Super Hornets instead. He also advocated taking steps to increase the stealth of the Super Hornet, according to Time’s White House correspondent Zeke Miller.

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