Donald Trump wants to tell the F-35 that it's fired.
"When they say that this cannot perform as well as the planes we already have, what are [we] doing, and spending so much more money?" Trump said during an appearance on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.
The host asked Trump his thoughts on the fifth generation fighter and the fact that it's $160 billion over budget. Trump responded that he didn't like what he had been hearing in security briefings.
"I do hear that it's not very good," he said. "I'm hearing that our existing planes are better. And one of the pilots came out of the plane, one of the test pilots, and said this isn't as good as what we already have."
The F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) conducts flight number 152 of aircraft 75/CF-05 on Oct. 4 during the second phase of F-35C carrier suitability and integration developmental testing (DT-II) aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin
Trump referenced a scathing, five-page report that was leaked in June by the website War is Boring. In the memo — meant to be seen only by defense officials and Lockheed Martin — the test pilot derides the F-35's ability to engage in high aerial maneuvers and a close-in dogfight.
The Lightning II can't, the test pilot wrote, defeat an older F-16 in visual combat.
Military leaders and policy makers should take the report seriously, Trump said.
"Test pilots are amazing people. They know better than anybody," he said. "They're saying it doesn't perform as well as our existing equipment, which is much less expensive. So when I hear that, immediately I say we have to do something, because you know, they're spending billions. This is a plane. There's never been anything like it in terms of cost."