The F-52 was a twist of words when then-President Donald Trump was referring to the F-35 stealth fighter. And yet, the F-52 does have some basis in the video game world: Well, he got the “F” for fighter right.
In 2018, President Donald Trump referred to what at first could have been considered a new warplane.
He initially stoked flames of speculation by mentioning a mysterious American-made F-52 that was just sold to Norway. But the F-52 only exists in the fictional world of a video game. The slip of the tongue most likely happened because Trump read his briefing book wrong or there was an error in his bullet points written by a staffer.
F-52: What Did He Just Say?
“In November we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets,” Trump said. “We have a total of 52 and they’ve delivered a number of them already a little ahead of schedule,” he said in an announcement.
F-52 Flies Only in Call of Duty
Could the F-52 be a new fighter that was stealthier than the F-35 or F-22? Was it a sixth-generation airplane? No, you just had to be a gamer to recognize it.
The F-52 is a warplane you could pilot in the video game “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” In that rendition of the popular franchise, the F-52 had something called a “drop pod” that allowed the pilot to sneak into enemy territory in secrecy to accomplish a kidnapping mission.
Lockheed Martin Refers to Foreign Military Sales
The Washington Post was curious, and it checked with Lockheed Martin, the builder of the F-35 Lightning II, about the F-52. The Norwegians had ordered 40 F-35s at the time and had taken possession of 10. Lockheed failed to mention the F-52. It appeared the F-52 was simply Trump misspeaking.
Finland and Switzerland Have Deals to Buy F-35s
Fast-forward and Scandinavian countries are still ordering F-35s in great numbers. Finland announced that its military is going to buy 64 F-35s. The Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) said the Finns will also receive engines, spare parts, and maintenance equipment. Finland will have air-to-air missiles such as Sidewinders and AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles).
Other European Countries Are Flying It, Have Ordered It, Or Are Planning to Buy It
Belgium, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands already have some variant of the F-35s or are getting ready to take possession of the stealth fighter. Lockheed is also exploring new customers for the F-35 such as Spain, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Romania.
These countries value the advanced capabilities of the F-35. It’s able to fight, bomb, and collect intelligence data to be shared with other units of the military to better coordinate offensive and defensive operations. Countries can also pack additional weaponry on the plane when it operates in “beast mode.”
Russia is another driver of European F-35 sales as Vladimir Putin threatens Ukraine with a potential invasion.
Maybe Not a F-52, But the Future Is Here
Now going back to the fictitious F-52 video game fighter. There is indeed a new program for a sixth-generation fighter. This is called the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. The U.S. Air Force has reportedly overseen the building of a prototype. The diamond-shaped NGAD technology demonstrator is expected to be stealthier than the F-22 and F-35.
Trump may not have exhibited a handle on the all-things military while he was president and the “F-52” slip was embarrassing, but the F-35 is spreading around Europe and there are plans for a next-generation fighter, so maybe the mercurial leader was actually on to something.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.