F-22 Cuts Would Be "Body Shot" to Fort Worth

Mayor says he'll fight to save jobs

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    About 2,000 people make parts for the F-22 at Lockheed Martin's sprawling facility in west Fort Worth.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended Monday ending production of the F-22 fighter jet, sparking concerns of massive job cuts at Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth.

    "That's definitely a body shot" to the city's economy, said Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief.

    About 2,000 people make parts for the jet at the defense contractor's sprawling facility in west Fort Worth.

    F-22 Cuts Would Be "Body Shot" to Fort Worth

    [DFW] F-22 Cuts Would Be "Body Shot" to Fort Worth
    Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended Monday ending production of the F-22 fighter jet, sparking concerns of massive job cuts at Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth.

    Moncrief said despite the Pentagon chief's announcement, the area's political leaders would fight to keep the jet, which was first developed during the Cold War.

    "It's still early in the budget process," he said. "The fat lady hasn't sung yet."

    Gates recommended more than doubling the number of another jet made by Lockheed Martin, the Joint Strike Fighter, to 30 in the upcoming budget, which would increase funding to $11.2 billion from $6.8 billion.

    According to the Pentagon, there already are 38,000 employees working nationwide on the next-generation stealth fighter jet, known as the F-35. That number is anticipated to jump to 82,000 in fiscal 2011.

    The F-35 also is made at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. About 5,000 people work on that project.

    Still, Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed has said almost 95,000 jobs -- mostly in California, Texas, Georgia and Connecticut -- could be at risk if the Pentagon didn't buy more F-22 jets.

    Gates offered a very different employment picture, saying the number of direct jobs would fall to 13,000 in fiscal 2011 from 24,000 this year.

    Military analysts widely expected the radar-evading supersonic F-22 jet -- considered an outdated weapon system -- would not go beyond the 187 already planned. The planes cost $140 million each.

    Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout in Fort Worth released a written statement saying the company is assessing the impact of Gates' decision on several defense programs.

    "As we move forward in the budget process, Lockheed Martin will continue to support our customers," Stout said.

    Boeing Co. manufactures the wings and other parts in Seattle. The engines are supplied by Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. unit, in Middletown, Conn.

    The F-22's are assembled in Marietta, Ga.

    Georgia Republican Reps. Phil Gingrey and Johnny Isakson said Gates' decision puts thousands of manufacturing jobs at risk. And Jeff Goen, president of the union representing Lockheed's employees in metro Atlanta, said layoffs are inevitable unless Congress restores the fighter program.

    "It's going devastate many families here," Goen said.

    Goen didn't know how many jobs might be lost, but said Lockheed has about 2,000 workers -- out of 7,000 at its Georgia plant -- assigned to the F-22. The union, the International Association of Machinists Local 709, represents about 1,200 employees working on the jet's assembly.

    Matthew Perra, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney, said that without additional F-22 aircraft orders, the company will be forced to halt orders from suppliers within months.

    Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies last month announced plans to trim 11,600 jobs from its global work force. And the company's CEO Louis Chenevert has said the diversified manufacturer may cut an additional 2,000 to 3,000 jobs in Connecticut if the Pentagon cancels production of the F-22.

    Plans to buy a new fleet of White House helicopters also were among the programs terminated by Gates. With a price tag of $13 billion and a six-year delay, the helicopters were considered at risk to be cut in the 2010 budget.

    Obama has said he would closely examine the program, noting that his current ride seemed "perfectly adequate."

    Gates said the Pentagon will look into other options in fiscal 2011 for a new program to replace the aging helicopter fleet.

    Cost overruns and delays have plagued Lockheed's program due partly to aggressive plans by the Bush administration to incorporate anti-missile defenses, communications equipment, hardened hulls and other advanced capabilities on the helicopters following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    The Navy waited nearly a year before formally disclosing the information to lawmakers as it sought to find ways to keep the program within budget. Those efforts failed.