New defense spending plans great for FW

01/20/2014 12:00 AM

01/17/2014 8:42 PM

At a ceremony last month where more than 2,000 employees and guests at the huge Lockheed Martin plant on Fort Worth’s west side celebrated the production of its 100th F-35 fighter plane, program manager Lorraine Martin called it “a proud day for the entire F-35 community.”

Indeed, it was a proud day for Tarrant and nearby counties, where the Lockheed Martin plant has such a huge economic impact.

Another proud day came last week, when Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes funding this year for 29 F-35 joint strike fighters.

The bill also includes money for 19 more V-22 Osprey aircraft made by Bell Helicopter. Bell’s corporate headquarters are in far east Fort Worth, where it is constructing a new office building and other facilities as part of a $250 million capital spending program.

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst in Washington, D.C., told Star-Telegram reporter Yamil Berard that the new spending bill “solidly funds Fort Worth programs.”

That’s comforting language for a city where defense spending has long been a key part of the economy. There have been enough ups and downs in defense spending over the years to make people shy away from words like solid.

Indeed, both the F-35 and the V-22 have been in the bull’s-eye of defense budget cutters for years, but they have come out as solid winners.

The Pentagon’s Joint Program Office, which supervises F-35 production, said in a statement issued Thursday that “the U.S. military remains committed to the program.”

Full production of the F-35 is not expected until 2018.

Meanwhile, V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft have seen action ferrying freight and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new spending plan’s 19 additional aircraft are part of a $6.5 billion contract with the Naval Air Systems Command signed last year.

Israel has formally requested U.S. permission to buy six V-22s, which would be the first foreign sale of the tilt-rotor.

Fort Worth and its neighboring cities have celebrated the highs and endured the lows that come with defense projects.

This is one of the highs, which are far, far better than the lows.

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