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Trump says F-35 fighter jets should be made in the US

F-35A Lightning II aircraft receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., July 13, 2015, during a flight from England to the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Madelyn Brown)
May 15, 2020

President Donald Trump said this week that the U.S. should control all production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, calling reliance on some foreign partners a matter of “stupidity.”

Trump discussed the issue during a Thursday interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, who asked Trump how the U.S. might incentivize companies to return production and supply chains to the U.S. in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which spread from China and has interrupted international supply chains.

“I could tell you hundreds of stories of the stupidity that I’ve seen. As an example, we make a fighter jet. It’s a certain fighter jet, I won’t tell you which, but it happens to be the F-35,” Trump responded. “It’s a great jet, and we make parts for this jet all over the world. We make them in Turkey, we make them here, we make them there, because President Obama and others, I’m not just blaming him, thought it was a wonderful thing.”

“The problem is, if we have a problem with a country, you can’t make the jet,” Trump continued. “We get parts from all over the place. It’s so crazy. We should make everything in the United States.”

Trump said the “main body” of the jet is made in Turkey.

“We have a good relationship with President Erdogan, you know with me. What happens if we don’t have [a good relationship]? They’re going to say ‘well we’re not going to give you this.'”

A decision by the Turkish last year to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems strained U.S.-Turkish relations, causing the U.S. to pause F-35 deliveries with the country, which was partnered on the fighter jet program.

When pressed, Trump did not explain exactly how the U.S. would return the entirety of F-35 production to the U.S. but said “We’re doing it because I’m changing all those policies.”

As the Thursday interview continued, Bartiromo swung discussion of the supply chain issue over to recent issues with China during the coronavirus, noting Chinese threats to throttle the supply of pharmaceuticals flowing into the U.S.

China also reportedly blocked U.S. multinational companies like Honeywell and 3M, that had factories in China, from exporting their products to the U.S. during the early days of the outbreak. Those U.S. companies instead were only allowed to sell their products within China, as the country hoarded medical supplies. China policy experts such as Michael Wessell, a founding member of the federal US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, have since warned that China has begun using its position over key medical supplies to exchange those needed supplies for positive press, despite criticisms of its transparency during the outbreak.