F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Strategic necessity and economic powerhouse
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications, posted 16 June 2014, 12:30 p.m. EDT
The F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter is not just an extremely effective warfighting machine but also a robust engine of economic growth for the U.S. and its international partners, said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, addressing a standing-room-only audience this morning in Atlanta, Ga. Carvalho was delivering the keynote speech at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ AVIATION 2014 forum.
He pointed out that the roots of the program were laid in 1993, when, to achieve maximum cost effectiveness and seamless operating ability, the Department of Defense consolidated the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter programs under one program – the Joint Advanced Stealth Technology, or JAST, program, along with the Advanced Short Take Off and Vertical Take Off program – to create “not just a new aircraft, but the mature technology that a new series of fighters could use.”
The goals of the new program, he said, were to “close the ‘fighter’ gap with our international adversaries, increase the deterrent capabilities of both the U.S. and our international partners, enhance combat effectiveness, create jobs, improve the balance of trade and enhance the domestic production base.”
Designing the new fighter around the Harrier Jump Jet, A-10 Thunderbolt, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-18 Hornet, as well as incorporating technology from the F-22 Raptor, has “leveraged the synergies of commonality” among those aircraft, he said. This approach has allowed the U.S. to field a new plane with three variants built on community needs: the F-35A, a standard runway-capable aircraft that will serve with land-based air forces; the F-35B, a short takeoff and landing aircraft that will replace the Harrier and support expeditionary forces; and the F-35C, which will support aircraft carrier operations. The three variants will give the U.S. and its allies “fighter capability that will project air power and support ground forces well throughout the first half of the 2st century,” said Carvalho. The F-35 “redefines the concept of the multi-role fighter” and “fully delivers on the promise of a premier fifth-generation fighter aircraft,” he stated.
Carvalho then examined the aircraft’s economic impact on the U.S. and its international partners – Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the U.K. The program has already created “100,000 civil sector and private sector jobs,” he said. Once the F-35 program reaches its full production rate, it will “create more jobs than any other Department of Defense initiative in a decade, while also growing a high-skilled, high-tech workforce essential to our economy,” with “250 international suppliers…teamed with 1,200 U.S. suppliers,” he said.
The program “will generate $380 billion for the global economy and provide billions of dollars more in U.S. exports, with nearly 1,000 aircraft being exported to our global partners and sold to other allies through the military sales process.” In Australia, he said, “17 suppliers have been awarded contracts for $335 million,” and “F-35 vertical tails are manufactured and then sent to Houston, Texas, for final assembly.” In the U.K., “British industry will build 15 percent of the 11,000 F-35s, creating some 24,000 jobs” across that nation, Carvalho said. In Italy, the “industrial cooperation agreement not only invests in the production of the F-35 through 2027, but…the final assembly and set-up facility will produce full wing-sets for our partner nations and the Italian and Dutch Air Forces.” Once that facility comes on line, it also “will produce two new F-35s per month…providing 6,335 jobs in direct technology positions and 1,119 jobs in final preparation tasks,” he said.
Carvalho said the F-35 program “continues to meet critical milestones, and that it will not be very long until the aircraft is flying with full capabilities backed up by a full rate of production. In addition to creating jobs and boosting commerce, said Carvalho, the F-35 also increases security “by contributing to the global trade balance as [the program] continues to mature and the confidence in the F-35 grows stronger here and abroad.
He called the F-35 “a story of courage on the part of the Defense Department, identifying the needs for a recapitalization of the domestic and international fighter enterprise to take the bold step for a single, next-generation fighter.”
Following his address, Carvalho was asked if the F-35 meant the end of manned aircraft. He replied, “I know debate in our aerospace domain rages around manned vs. unmanned systems, but history tells us that in these types of debates neither extreme is the right answer….While there will be more missions that our unmanned systems complete [as their abilities grow], there will always be a role for a manned fighter. Discussions have already started on a sixth- generation fighter, so I believe that the F-35 will not be the last manned system.”
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