By Michael L. Heil
Since the invention of the airplane by Ohio’s own Wright Brothers in 1903, the Buckeye State has been a world leader in military aviation. We’re home to legendary military aviators like Eddie Rickenbacker, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, and home of the world’s premier military aerospace research and development complex, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Our nation’s military might depends upon aerospace supremacy, and our state can be proud of our role in helping to make the United States the world’s leading aerospace power.
But our military aerospace leadership is at risk due to federal budget pressures, and we must ensure that our government provides our fighting forces with the world’s best aerospace technology and equipment to safely and successfully complete their missions.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is perfect example of the high-tech fighting equipment that our forces need. The F-35 is a stealthy, multi-role fifth-generation fighter that’s set to replace America’s aging fleet of F-16 Falcons and F-18 Hornets with an aircraft that utilizes situational awareness to aid our troops on the battlefield.
The F-35 will serve the Air Force, Navy and Marines and provide a single-platform, cost-efficient and highly capable fighter that will deliver both economic and strategic value to our armed services.
In addition to its unsurpassed military utility, the F-35 delivers economic benefits to our state and our nation. In Ohio, 48 suppliers to the F-35 program provide 2,900 direct and indirect jobs, with an annual economic impact of $354 million.
On a national scale, the program provides work to 1,300 suppliers in 45 states, employing 133,000 Americans. All this adds up to more than $17.7 billion in domestic economic impact, serving the dual purpose of protecting our nation while stimulating job growth and economic security.
Here in Ohio, we know how to make things, and make them well. Earlier this year, ALCOA’s Cleveland Works began operations with its 50,000-ton press. This press forges the bulkheads of the F-35. Lockheed-Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 program, employs 650 people at its facility at Akron-Fulton International Airport.
These are examples of local communities utilizing their manufacturing strength and ability to employ local residents and manufacture a product that will protect our troops.
We need to ensure that Congress and the president preserve the military utility and economic benefits of the F-35 by maintaining full funding of the program.
The F-35 program delivers good, high-paying jobs to Ohio and is a critical contributor to our national defense and to our nation’s role as the world aerospace leader. Our leaders and elected officials in Washington must be made aware of these contributions and of the importance of supporting and fully funding this program.
Heil is president and CEO of the Cleveland-based Ohio Aerospace Institute.