He also threatened to replace the F-35 with the F-18 from Boeing.

That drew quick criticism—and even mockery—from the combat-aviation community. The F-18, unlike the F-35, is not a stealth jet. As Popular Science suggested, “it’s like suggesting a cruise ship can do the job of an aircraft carrier.”

Yet Trump was about to become the commander-in-chief. Nerves were rattled in Fort Worth. In January 2017, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson met with Trump to explain some things. She said her company planned to add some 1,800 F-35 jobs in Fort Worth, and that the price of the advanced jet was going down as production increased and the project gained momentum. The Fort Worth plant already employed 14,000 workers at the time, about 8,800 of whom worked on the F-35.

Today, strong demand is kicking in from US allies in the Asia-Pacific. It’s driven largely by fears of an unpredictable North Korea—prone to testing nuclear bombs and launching intercontinental ballistic missiles—and a rising China that’s making increasingly sophisticated military technology—and not backing down from its questionable claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere. In addition to Japan’s new order, South Korea said in December it plans to order 20 more F-35As, building upon a previous request for 40. And Fort Worth workers are also working on F-35As for Australia to be delivered this year, part of an earlier order for 72.

What’s more, both Japan and South Korea are considering buying F-35Bs for use on warships. Japan for instance wants to put the fighter, capable of vertical landings, on its Izumo-class helicopter carriers. China, which has disputes with Japan over East China Sea islands, quickly protested the idea, saying it would erode trust and violate Japan’s pacifist constitution.

F-35 workers in Cowtown might not monitor the news about China, North Korea, and their worried neighbors. But having dodged a bullet with Trump, they are most definitely affected by it.

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