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Lockheed Martin’s F-35: Stimulating the Northwest Economy

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the largest defense acquisition program in history, with the United States buying 2,443 of these sophisticated aircraft for a whopping $323 billion. Washington, with its rich history of aerospace innovation, is a major player in the creation of these feats of modern engineering totaling $191.1 million per unit in 2010 (according to the United States Air Force FY 2011 Budget Estimate).

Lockheed Martin has revealed its production schedule for the F-35 JSF and brings the F-35 technology demonstrator to Fatigue Technology, a supplier for the program located just north of Seattle in Tukwila, Washington. The F-35 is currently being produced at a rate of one per month and provides more than 2,100 jobs and injects $150 million into the northwest economy annually. Lockheed Martin Plans to ramp up production to two units per month in 2011, four units/month by 2014, 10 units/month by 2015, and 20 units/month by 2018/2019.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in action.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in action.

Projected build numbers like these is encouraging for the northwest economy, especially given recent (and enduring) economic challenges. According to Kevin Smith, director of Joint Strike Fighter domestic business development and customer engagement, “As we increase our production and our capacity, it’s going to mean even more to the state of Washington.”

Lockheed Martin delivered the F-35 technology demonstrator to Fatigue Technology in Tukwila because, says Smith, “These folks build important parts on the airplane and most of them never get an opportunity to go see the real airplane in production. When you know what you’re working on and you know it’s protecting your family, you have a little bit higher sense of attention and focus.”

While production on the F-35 JSF program is six to seven months behind, it promises to bring both jobs and money to the northwest for years to come. This geek thinks that it is great news and potentially an indication of an economic turnaround.

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