Former President Donald Trump doesn’t really have gaffes like a normal politician.
When a normal politician, say Joe Biden or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton, screws up, the press often places the screw-up in the gaffe category.
But with Trump, his screw-ups are framed differently. In the press’s eyes, Trump is too nefarious, or too adversarial for gaffes.
Trump’s gaffes are framed instead as cons or hustles or disrespect. Only once in a while, Trump has a moment that threads the needle and qualifies as a gaffe. One such moment happened in 2018 when Trump referred to a U.S. shipment of F-52 fighter jets to Norway.
The problem of course is that the F-52 is a fictional jet from the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare video game.
Trump and the F-52
“In November we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets,” Trump said back in 2018. “We have a total of 52 and they’ve delivered a number of them already a little ahead of schedule.”
So, the mistake was easy enough to make – Trump was reading from a statement and it looks like he mixed up the amount of fighter jets (52) with the type of fighter jets (F-35) – but the end result was comical, demonstrating that the then-president didn’t really know his fighter jets.
The F-52, “at least in pixelated form, exists in 2014’s installment of the popular Call of Duty franchise,” The Washington Post reported. “In the game, players are at the helm of the jet soaring through a canyon, firing a chaingun and missiles in a scene reminiscent of another fantasy dogfight – the Death Star run in ‘A New Hope.’”
Maybe Trump is a Call of Duty fan. Who knows.
He did get the F-35 part right. The Norwegian government did authorize funding for the purchase of 40 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from the U.S. At the time of Trump’s statement, Norway had already taken delivery of ten F-35s.
“Norway, which shares a maritime and land border with Russia, has relied on the United States to bolster its defense in the face of tension in European after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2014, which followed its annexation of Crimea,” The Washington Post reported. Obviously, in the years since the F-35 sale to Norway, tensions with Russia have increased exponentially in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“When our enemies hear the F-35 engines, when they’re roaring overhead, their souls will tremble, and they will know the day of reckoning has arrived,” Trump said.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program was beset with cost overruns and delays. But finally, the jet appears to be functionally contributing to the U.S. Military. Designed as a jack of all trades offering advanced battlefield perception and advanced interconnectivity, the F-35 is a fifth-generation fighter that relies on smarts more than brawn. The F-35 was designed to be shared amongst U.S. allies, like Norway, in an effort to balance against perceived adversaries, like China and Russia, who are also working to develop and mass-produce fifth-generation fighters.
To date, the F-35 is the most widely produced fifth-generation fighter in the world. Lockheed Martin, the developer of the F-35, “did not say if it had an F-52 program in development.”
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
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