Trump Suddenly Starts Blabbering About The F-35 During Puerto Rico Recovery Meeting

In what turned out to be a bizarre congratulatory set piece presser of sorts under the wing of a Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130, the 45th President of the United States suddenly went off track and began talking about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—an aircraft that has zero to do with horrible devastation, squalid living conditions, or recovery efforts on the storm ravaged island.

Trump, who has been harshly criticized for his response to the disaster, as well as his messaging that targeted local officials who didn’t sing its praises, said the following during the highly anticipated visit to the island:

“Amazing job, and amazing job. So amazing that we’re ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of new airplanes for the Air Force, especially the F-35. Do you like the F-35? I said how does it do it in fights, and how do they do in fights with the F-35. He says we do very well, you can’t see it. Literally you can’t see. It’s hard to fight a plane you can’t see right? But that’s an expensive plane you can’t see. And as you probably heard we cut the price very substantially, something other administrations would never have done, that I can tell you.”

The totally off-base remarks came after asking for some words on the USAF’s part in the recovery. You can watch the strange moment and the entire event below (starts at around 14:10 if the video doesn’t advance on its own):

First off, the whole display was totally tone deaf. The people of Puerto Rico are really in a bad place and Trump’s seems to only have one speed, which is one of congratulations as if he is at some sort of corporate awards dinner. 

But that aside, why in the hell is talking about the F-35 during a meeting on disaster relief in Puerto Rico? Stating proudly that the government is going to spend “hundreds of millions” on new aircraft for the USAF when that same government’s willingness to rebuild key infrastructure on the island is in doubt is beyond stupid. People could care less about a stealth fighter program when they have no roof, no power, and no potable water. 

What’s worse is that he repeats the fallacy that he saved so much money on the program by picking up the phone and wheeling and dealing out of his pocket. This simply is not true. 

MANDEL NGAN/ Contributor / Getty Images

As we said in a past article about another of Trump’s ramblings on the F-35:

“I really don’t want to rehash the whole “Trump saved millions per F-35” fiasco but lets just say, he didn’t. But the defense industry, which has little shame in licking boots to make a buck, played to his ego so he could say he did. Scary…

…It is pretty clear Trump has been personally spoon-fed the F-35 brochure from LockMart and the program office. Without any point of reference, it all must seem pretty wondrous. Oh and the program he was so critical of during his campaign is now magically fixed because he made a phone call. Totally ridiculous to the point that its downright insulting. And really, nothing of this has to do with the jet itself, just a new slathering of politics that surrounds it. 

To be honest, I had high hopes that Trump could spur systemic change within the DoD’s procurement process. Those hopes have faded rapidly over the last three months. It seems that he is far more interested in selectively intervening in a few high-profile programs he has interest in so that he can claim fake victories and gloat about them endlessly to the press, and the defense industry is happy to oblige him if it means funding certainty and a strong order book. 

As Trump would put it: “sad.””

It would be nice, just for once, to hear something of substance, something that shows some level of information retention on a major issue from this President. Just getting the same old congratulations game or vague talking points is becoming tiresome. Especially when it comes to something like this, a far from highly scientific issue and one that effects Americans lives right here and now. 

Instead we get boasting about buying throngs of expensive stealth fighter jets.


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Tyler Rogoway


Tyler’s passion is the study of military technology, strategy, and foreign policy and he has fostered a dominant voice on those topics in the defense media space. He was the creator of the hugely popular defense site Foxtrot Alpha before developing The War Zone.