New F-35 mission to bring 400 jobs to Wright-Patt

A F-35 program will bring hundreds of new jobs to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

U.S. Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, on Tuesday announced that the Pentagon has decided to locate the F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator Organization at Wright-Patterson.

RELATED: Wright-Patterson, post offices will close to honor Bush

The new mission will mean at least 400 new jobs at Wright-Patt, with the potential for more to be located at the base over the next several years. The F-35 Air System is the multi-mission, fifth-generation strike fighter.

“The Air Force’s decision to locate the F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator at Wright-Patt is great news for the Dayton region and more than 400 new jobs at the base,” Portman said. “This decision is a testament to our incredible work force and reinforces the Miami Valley’s critical role in supporting our national defense. In addition to bringing high-paying jobs to Dayton, this Support Center will help contribute to the effectiveness of our F-35 program.”

In April, Portman, Brown, and Turner led the entire Ohio congressional delegation in writing a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. The lawmakers made the case for Wright-Patt and said the base was uniquely qualified to handle the new mission. In June, Portman, Brown, and Turner, along with other members of the Ohio delegation, met with Secretary Wilson in Washington, where they made the case for Wright-Patt in person.

The delegation touted that the Air Force Materiel Command and the Life Cycle Management Center are both based at Wright-Patterson. Wright-Patterson currently has an F-35 technical division office. The Fighters and Bombers Directorate, which oversees management programs such as the F-15, F-16 and F-22, and the B-1, B-2 and B-52, is also headquartered at Wright-Patterson.

“In numerous discussions with Secretary Wilson, I expressed that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base provides the best opportunity of success for this incredibly important mission for our national security,” Turner said.“With today’s decision to bring the F-35 HPSI Organization to Wright-Patt, at least 400 new jobs will be added to our community as a direct result of our strong bipartisan advocacy.”

Pentagon leaders have concurred with a report to create two separate offices — one for the Air Force and the other for the Navy and Marine Corps — to manage three different versions of the F-35. The Joint Program Office in Crystal City, Md., has managed the program which has been under development since 2001.

Three variants of the F-35 are replacing the A-10 and F-16 for the Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy and the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marines Corps. The aircraft is also replacing a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries.

The F-35 Lightning II, contracted by Lockheed Martin, combines advanced stealth with fighter speed, full fused sensor information and network-enabled operations.

The F-35 is “optimized to be a multirole fighter, with the ability to perform air-to-air, air-to-ground and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.” Since 1990, the U.S. Air Force fighter inventory has been cut in half and current Air Force fighter aircraft are, on average, more than 25 years old, according to Lockheed Martin.

Chris Kershner, executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said it’s the responsibility for the “community at-large to always work to ensure there are opportunities to welcome new missions at the base.”

He said the state has passed legislation in recent months that makes Ohio an attractive place for military personnel and families. Ohio occupational licensing agencies would be directed to issue temporary licenses to members of the military and their spouses when the move to Ohio for active duty, under a bill that passed the Ohio House on a 82-0 vote last week. The bill now moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

The base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 civilian employees and military personnel with an estimated economic impact of more $4 billion a year.

Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, said the decision ensures Wright-Patterson will remain strongly involved in the F-35 aircraft program, which is vital to the Air Force and national defense.

Hoagland said Wright-Patterson is the “intellectual capital of the U.S. Air Force,” making it a natural fit to bring the F-35 program to the region. The economic benefits are far-reaching because the “sustaining” program will likely stay at the base for decades to come, and it brings high-paying jobs, he said.

“Secretary Wilson’s decision to base the new mission here is more than just new jobs for the Dayton region—it’s a vote of confidence in the skilled acquisition workforce at Wright-Patterson,” Hoagland said.

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