“Peace through strength. Lots of strength.”
That phrase is prominently displayed on the walls of our Lockheed Martin Air Force Plant 4 facility in Fort Worth. It captures the spirit of a world-class team that has designed, produced and delivered more than 7,000 cutting-edge military aircraft to our Armed Forces since 1942.
The word “strength,” in my opinion, also applies to the more than 250,000 men and women who have dedicated their time and talents at Air Force Plant 4 over the past 75 years. Whether they were employees of Consolidated-Vultee, Convair, General Dynamics or now Lockheed Martin, their tireless commitment to innovation and performance is profound. Our employees set the standard for excellence in the aerospace and defense community.
From the beginning, a can-do attitude was present in Air Force Plant 4. While the doors officially opened in April 1942, that very first team of patriots had already begun producing the B-24 Liberator a few months earlier to meet WWII demands. The first Liberator from Fort Worth was accepted by the Air Force three months ahead of schedule. It was a significant feat, considering the construction of the plant itself had just been completed. About 175 Liberators per month were delivered during peak production, setting the standard for strong performance in support of our warfighters, which continues to this day.
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Another testament of the innovation from the Fort Worth team is the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The multi-role F-16 has been the epitome of strength in the skies for nearly four decades. The original goal with F-16 was to create a small, lightweight, highly maneuverable alternative to the large and complex fighter aircraft common at the time. The F-16 did just that and set new standards for fighter aircraft performance, quality, reliability, affordability and readiness to fly and fight.
The F-16 began as a fighter aircraft program for the U.S. Air Force and four European partners and grew into one of the most successful worldwide military production programs in history. More than 4,580 F-16s have been produced to date for 27 countries — about 3,600 of those in Fort Worth, and the remainder in final assembly facilities in Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey and South Korea.
After the delivery of the last Iraqi Air Force F-16 on contract in Fort Worth, production will transition to Greenville, S.C. As one door closes, another opens. We’re adding 1,800 jobs as we increase production of our fifth-generation fighter aircraft: the F-35 Lightning II. The F-35 is the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter, with unmatched capabilities, and is crafted by the skilled hands of thousands of professionals. It’s already presenting a tremendous economic benefit here in Fort Worth, with more to come. Thousands are likely to be produced in the next several decades, in Fort Worth and overseas at final assembly facilities in Italy and Japan.
The influence Air Force Plant 4 has had on our community is also a testament to those who have worked in the facility for generations. As far back as the 1950s, employees joined forces and began making personal contributions to local charitable organizations. More than $75 million has been donated since. That tradition continues year over year. In 2016 alone, Fort Worth employees volunteered more than 110,000 hours and personally donated more than $1.6 million.
Today, we are building on 75 years of strength, and I have no doubt that our spirit of innovation will continue well into the future. To our community partners, current and former employees: Thank you. Together, we have made a positive and long-lasting impact on Fort Worth, our armed forces, and our nation. Our collective contributions and our partnerships will endure for decades to come.
Orlando Carvalho is executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. The aeronautics business area generated $17.8 billion in sales in 2016 and operates its headquarters from Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth. In his 37 years with Lockheed Martin, in addition to his current role, Mr. Carvalho has held several positions, including executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program.