Donald Trump Loved the F-52 Stealth Fighter (But It Doesn't Exist)

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June 7, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: F-52F-52 FighterU.S. Air ForceF-35StealthMilitaryDefense

Donald Trump Loved the F-52 Stealth Fighter (But It Doesn't Exist)

In 2018, President Donald Trump mistakenly mentioned - and did not realize it -  a fictional F-52 fighter jet from the video game “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” as part of a sale to Norway.


Summary and Key Points: In 2018, President Donald Trump mistakenly mentioned - and did not realize it -  a fictional F-52 fighter jet from the video game “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” as part of a sale to Norway.

-He intended to reference the F-35, a real stealth fighter jet. Norway, along with other European countries, has been acquiring the F-35 to bolster their air capabilities.


-While the F-52 slip was a gaffe, it highlights the ongoing interest in advanced military aircraft, including the future Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program for a sixth-generation fighter.

Trump's F-52 Slip: Mixing Fiction with Fighter Jets

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).

The Swiss bought 36 F-35s, its military said. This sale is going to set Switzerland back about $6.4 billion. The deal also includes technical support, training, and ammunition. 

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. 

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.


About the Author 

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

All images are Shutterstock.