US Air Force Lt Gen Charles Davis, speaking exclusively to Flight International, has accused Boeing of "spreading lies and half-truths" about the F-35 to bolster its case for selling the F/A-18E/F.
"That's just pissing us off," Davis says. "If Boeing has to say something negative about JSF to sell their aircraft, that tells me there is something wrong with their aircraft."
Davis specifically faults Boeing executives for predicting further cost overruns and delays for the F-35 programme. By comparison, Davis says, he has heard BAE Systems make no such predictions in their efforts to sell the Eurofighter Typhoon.
However, it was pointed out to Davis that Boeing had delivered hundreds of F/A-18E/Fs on time and on budget, while the JSF programme has reported a 50% cost increase and an at least 18-month delay during the first seven years of development.
Davis acknowledges the F-35's record, but refuses to back down in his criticism of Boeing.
He says the F-35's development challenges can not be compared with the F/A-18E/F. The Super Hornet is based on an existing airframe, he says, and reuses the avionics suite from the original aircraft.
"That's the baseline they're measured against. How hard is that?" Davis asks.
The F-35 and F/A-18E/F are in competition in several countries, and not least in the USA, where navy officials continue to debate the need for extending Super Hornet purchases if the JSF is further delayed.
Boeing executives were not immediately aware of the news articles that provoked the Davis outburst.
"We don't know much about JSF other than what we read in the paper," says Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
Tom Bell, a Boeing business development official, says he is unaware of the specific comments that triggered Davis' outburst, and so could not give a direct response.
Bell points out that two JSF development partners - Australia and Denmark - have already acquired or are considering acquiring F/A-18E/Fs instead.
"People with greater insight [into the F-35 programme] than I are looking at the offerings available," Bell says. "Let people draw their own conclusions about why."