Trump wants Boeing to build stealth F-18s for a 'good price' — but they don't exist

  • President Donald Trump said Boeing's F-18 is "his favorite plane" and called it "a work of art."
  • Trump wants to buy another 24 F-18s from Boeing that are equipped with "stealth."
  • Boeing does not field F-18s with stealth capabilities.

It would appear as though Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet has entered back into President Donald Trump's good graces.

Trump said the jet is not only "his favorite plane" but also described it as "a work of art" during a roundtable discussion at Boeing's testing and finishing facility in St. Louis.

"You look at the workers and the talent that went into it and we just looked at different versions of it and its a spectacular and a beautiful thing to watch," Trump said.

Flanked by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, and backdropped with Boeing's F-15 Eagle and F-18 Super Hornet, Trump pivoted to business.

"I keep telling these countries, you need to buy American, I want you to buy American," the president said.

"If we didn't make the best products I wouldn't ask them to do it but we make by far the best fighter jets, we make the best there is in the military world," Trump added.

Trump also noted that the U.S. plans to buy 24 more F-18 jets saying the planes would be the "latest and the greatest stealth and a lot of things on that plane that people don't even know about."

And while the Navy and Boeing are currently negotiating a service life modification contract that could add some components native to a stealth aircraft, as it stands now, Boeing does not field stealthy F-18s capable of evading radar.

Trump continued by saying the government and Boeing were working on a price and that "maybe we can work out a good price."

"Otherwise, we are going to buy them from somebody else but it will all be in the United States, right?" he said.

"I don't know, I have a feeling that, what do you think Dennis, we're gonna make a deal?" Trump asked turning to Muilenburg. "We'll find a way," Muilenburg responded.

U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet
Source: U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet

Trump didn't always admire the Super Hornet.

In August 2016, the St. Louis-built twin-engine carrier-capable fighter jet was criticized by Trump after a U.S. Navy F/A-18 crashed at Naval Air Station Fallon in western Nevada.

"Oh, did they have another one of these things go down? It's terrible that crash. Never liked that plane, structurally," he said during an interview with Washington Post.

Four months later, in response to a series of cost overruns and other development issues for Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet, Trump asked Boeing to "price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet."

Trump's request — announced via tweet— came a day after meeting separately with the CEOs from Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Boeing's response — also announced via tweet— said it accepted the invitation to work with the Trump administration to "affordably meet US military requirements."

The suggested Boeing F-18 Super Hornet is a generation behind the F-35, lacking the coveted capabilities such as stealth and sensor fusion. In short, Boeing's Super Hornet would have to be significantly redesigned, manufactured, and tested over multiple years in order to meet the same requirements akin to Lockheed's stealth fighter.

Currently, the Department of Defense is negotiating with Lockheed Martin on the next batch of F-35 jets.