Here’s why Lockheed’s F-35 program remains vital to U.S. security, Fort Worth economy

BY ROBERT MARTINEZ JR.

Growing up as a kid in Fort Worth, I dreamed of joining the Navy to protect our nation. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school, and after completing my tour of duty, I searched for another way to serve our country back in my hometown.

Fortunately, I was hired as an aircraft assembler on the F-16 production line at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth division. Since World War II, Fort Worth has been synonymous with providing technologically advanced airplanes to our armed services.

I felt an enormous sense of American and Texas pride for making one of the world’s most successful, combat-proven fighters in our nation’s history. While working at the Fort Worth plant, I became a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 776A.

The brotherhood and sisterhood exemplified by IAM Local 776A continue to contribute to the success of the F-16 program significantly. The Fort Worth plant’s dedicated men and women produced 3,630 aircraft before the last F-16 came off the line in 2017.

The Fort Worth production facility’s pride continues with the F-35 program. Since its inception, Machinists Union members have proudly built the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, our nation’s only fifth-generation stealth aircraft currently in production. The F-35 is a critical element of American air superiority for three U.S. military services.

The plane is also a vital weapon system for our most important allies. Once again, our city plays an outsized role in maintaining the peace.

But the F-35 is more than a fighter jet. It is a lifeline to a better life for thousands of working families in Fort Worth. The Biden administration and Congress should not entertain any conversations about cutting back on the number of F-35 aircraft for our armed services. The F-35 continues to be the only fighter in production capable of surviving in contested environments and ensuring that pilots return home safely.

The F-35 program is also an economic engine for Fort Worth, our state and the nation. This mature program supports more than 254,000 direct and indirect American jobs and about 1,800 first-tier suppliers across the country, not to mention the suppliers that support them. It generates an annual economic impact of more than $49 billion in the U.S.

The program also fuels significant economic activity across Texas. More than 110 of the program’s suppliers are located in our state, and the program is responsible for more than 55,000 direct and indirect jobs in Texas. This investment amounts to more than $10 billion in our Texas economy. The economic impact of the F-35 program continues to grow.

Yet, some short-sighted politicians refuse to see the national security and economic benefits of the F-35 program by threatening to reduce funding for the program. Our country can’t afford to lose the military advantages derived from the F-35. Production cuts threaten the economic future of our community as well as in countless other communities across the state and nation. The economic vitality of Fort Worth depends on continued support for the F-35. Let’s rally behind the program.

The F-35 program strengthens national security, enhances global partnerships, and powers economic growth. We are proud to represent workers across the country who produce, deliver, maintain and support this critical defense program. From production workers in Fort Worth to suppliers in nearly every state and maintenance depots from coast to coast, the F-35 program creates high-quality Machinists Union jobs.

Our members will continue to increase our efficiency on the assembly line and lower our nation’s and customers’ costs across the world. The Machinists Union will stand in unity with our Texas Congressional delegation, friends in Congress, and Lockheed Martin to protect our country while securing a bright economic future for Fort Worth families.

Robert Martinez Jr. is the 14th international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents nearly 600,000 active and retired members.

Source: Lockheed F-35 program vital to military, Fort Worth economy | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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