By CAROLYN DRYER
There was much said about the loss of 600 jobs when the Lockheed Martin plant in Goodyear closed down. But there is a projected increase of 300 Lockheed Martin jobs once the fleet of 144 U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters is delivered and flying across Arizona skies.
During a tour of the Lockheed Martin production facility at Fort Worth, Texas, two former Air Force veterans and now employees of the defense contractor talked about the F-35 program and the aircraft itself.
Kevin Smith, director of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A (CTOL) and USAF Program Manager, said his company’s focus is on “helping the Air Force meet their objectives for the program.”
Art Cameron, who was stationed at Luke AFB 10 years ago, is moving again, this time to the West Valley with his wife and his dog, Luke, a white Labrador who was born at Luke 12 years ago. Cameron is the Lockheed Martin F-35 site director, and will be working with L-M employees at the new training facilities at Luke.
There are eight international partners invested in the development of the F-35: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Israel and Japan are acquiring the F-35 through the U.S. government’s foreign military sales program. Those nations’ investment has lowered the cost of the aircraft to the U.S.
Lockheed Martin’s fact sheet states the Department of Defense plans to acquire 2,443 F-35s (to recapitalize current fighter fleets). The U.S. Air Force will receive 1,763 CTOL, the U.S. Marine Corps will receive 340 STOVL and 80 CV, while the U.S. Navy will receive 260 CV models. Partner countries will receive 660 aircraft, while foreign military sales now total 61. Smith said foreign military sales are projected to be as high as 758.
Smith said the F-35A CTOL (conventional takeoff and landing) is primarily for the Air Force, and almost all countries participating in a partnership with the U.S. government are ordering the F-35A variant.
The F-35B STOVL (short takeoffs and vertical landings) is headed to the U.S. Marine Corps and United Kingdom. Italy is buying A and B models.
The F-35C carrier variant (CV) is designed for aircraft carrier takeoff and landing. Its gears, wings and tails are bigger than the A and B models.
“Performance is all the same inside,” Smith said.
Systems on the aircraft include 280,000 individual parts on the F-35A, 300,000 on the F-35B, and 290,000 on the F-35C. Other than the parts differences, the three variants are 80 percent common. For full functionality, the F-35 leverages more than eight million lines of software code, while the F-22, the world’s only other operational fifth generation fighter, uses approximately 2.2 million lines of code.
The aircraft uses AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array), with the pilot doing very little interaction. On the F-16, pilots have everything in front of them. On the F-35, everything is instantaneous from left to right, within 360 degrees in more precise angles and distance. It has DAS apertures (distributed aperture system), which gives an alert all the way around. It has RWR antennae, and at night, a pilot has visibility. There is emitter locating with radar, which gives it the ability to jam systems and provide protection for other systems within the aircraft.
Other system components:
•Embedded antennae (attenuators to an engineer)
•Reduced signature nozzles
•Internal stores carriage (air to air missiles and air to ground bombs)
•Increased situational awareness to pilot
•Communication – numerous data links
•Designed to be supportable – pieces of equipment put together to make it easy to repair
Smith said the most important part is the aircraft’s large capacity internal fuel tanks: 18,200 pounds in the F-35A (5.6 pounds per gallon); 13,100 pounds in the F-35B; and 19,200 pounds in the F-35C.
As for the cost of the F-35A, Smith said the cost is coming down, and by 2019, it will be down to the cost of fourth-generation aircraft, approximately $75 million. There has been a 55 percent reduction in the cost.
Cameron said production will ramp up through 2022. He said Luke AFB was chosen because pilots can fly every day of the week. Another asset is the Barry M. Goldwater Range, which has been called a “national treasure” in some circles.
By June of this year, the academic training center is slated to open. The first squadron to enter training will be composed of pilots from the U.S. United Kingdom and Australia. The second squadron pilots will be from Italy and Turkey. Canadian and Norwegian pilots will make up the third squadron.
When asked if the F-35 is an aircraft being built for an enemy that does not exist, Smith said China is developing similar aircraft and “will sell everything it builds,” while Russia is back to investing in technology “and they will export as well.”
On the local jobs front, the L-M fact sheet indicates there are 1,178 direct and indirect jobs related to the F-35 program, and the economic impact of the jobs on the state of Arizona is $91.7 million.
Lorraine Martin, L-M executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program, said the legacy of Luke AFB becoming the biggest fighter training base in the world was “going to have a long run.”
During the celebration in Fort Worth for the rollout of the 100th F-35, Martin said, “It took the collaboration of thousands of people – customers, employees and suppliers – from all over the world to make this day possible … This is a proud day for the entire F-35 community.”http://www.peoriatimes.com/news/article_562c516e-772a-11e3-8644-0019bb2963f4.html