Lockheed’s F-35 program has S.C. ties

Rep. Tim Scott spoke about Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program and its impact on the Palmetto State during an event on the USS Yorktown Thursday. (Photo/Leslie Burden)
Rep. Tim Scott spoke about Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program and its impact on the Palmetto State during an event on the USS Yorktown Thursday. (Photo/Leslie Burden)

By Matt Tomsic
mtomsic@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 18, 2012

The F-35 program generates 123 jobs and more than $5 million in economic impact in South Carolina, but those figures are at risk because of sequestration, which could impact Palmetto State suppliers and Lockheed Martin’s Greenville plant, all of whom work on the fighter program.

Lockheed Martin officials and Reps. Tim Scott and Joe Wilson spoke about the program and its impact on the Palmetto State during an event on the USS Yorktown today.

Rep. Joe Wilson said Congress has the opportunity to avoid sequestration, but faces a deadline that is just 45 days away. (Photo/Leslie Burden)
Rep. Joe Wilson said Congress has the opportunity to avoid sequestration, but faces a deadline that is just 45 days away. (Photo/Leslie Burden)
“In South Carolina, in our DNA is the military,” Scott said, adding the state is an amazing place to bring a next-generation fighter. In 2010, the Department of Defense announced that Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort would receive two F-35 training squadrons and three operational squadrons.

Scott said he first thinks about the lives that the F-35’s advanced technology will save and its impact when servicemen and women return home from deployments.

But the country faces one obstacle — sequestration — to putting the F-35 into service.

Congress included sequestration and its automatic spending cuts of $500 billion as a provision in the Budget Control Act. The cuts start automatically Jan. 2 since a congressional supercommittee didn’t approve legislation to reduce the deficit.

Scott said Congress has the opportunity to avoid sequestration, but it faces a deadline, which Wilson said is 45 days away.

“The military is under assault,” Wilson said.

The F-35 Lightning II is an advanced stealth fighter that is expected to replace decades-old airplanes throughout the U.S. military, said Steve Callahan, director of business development for Lockheed Martin.

So far, Lockheed Martin has delivered 36 F-35s to the Department of Defense, and those planes are being flown in Maryland, California and Alabama.

At its Greenville facility, Lockheed Martin receives about 300 F-35 parts each month and puts those parts into two or three modification kits, which are sent to military bases that serve as test sites for F-35s, said Don Erickson, the company’s site director for Greenville.

Erickson said the facility plays a small role in the program, but the work gets its foot in the door; Greenville workers have performed that work for two years.

The facility also sent some of its avionics technicians to Fort Worth, Texas, the final assembly site. There, the technicians helped set up a Boeing 737 for software testing so Lockheed Martin wouldn’t have to pull an F-35 from service to test modifications.

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