F-22 Ball is in Obama's Court

Thousands of North Texas jobs hang in the balance

The nearly 2,000 people who work on the F-22 in North Texas are on pins and needles, waiting to see if the president will decide to order additional jets.

The Air Force wants to order an additional 60 of the $142 million F-22 Raptors over the next three years. The planes are partially built at a Lockheed Martin Corp. facility in west Fort Worth.

"I believe that we stimulate the economy -- that every dollar that I make and we make, we go out and spend at the grocery store and the dry cleaners," mechanic William Christopher said.

About 1,700 people work on the F-22 at the Fort Worth facility, building about one-third of the plane's fuselage. In addition, an estimated 60 businesses across North Texas provide Lockheed Martin with supplies to help build the fighter.

Texas is the largest benefactor of the Raptor program, which employs 95,000 people nationwide. Final assembly is in Georgia.

But Christopher said the F-22 program is worth more than just the jobs it provides.

"Teddy Roosevelt said, 'Carry a big stick,'" he said. "This is a big stick. If we go up against another country, I want the biggest stick."

Lockheed Martin had originally set a March 1 deadline for confirmation on the Air Force's request for additional planes before it started telling suppliers the company was scaling back. The deadline has now been pushed back to April.
Any layoffs at the Fort Worth facility would occur this year and in early 2010.

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