A new $22.7 billion contract for more F-35s means Fort Worth’s Lockheed Martin operation will expand.
The contract covers 255 F-35s with Lockheed receiving $6 billion from U.S. Department of Defense right away, according to the company’s F-35 website. The bulk of the work will be done in Fort Worth.
It’s unclear from the company’s initial release how many jobs will come to Fort Worth, but the company has been hiring steadily for more than a year. Lockheed Martin planned to hire between 400 and 1,000 at a job fair in September. The company planned to hire at least 1,800 by 2020.
“The continued growth of the F35 program reinforces the strength of the talent that lies here in Fort Worth and the amazing capabilities of this aircraft,” Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
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The plant employs more than 14,000 people with nearly 9,000 working on F-35s.
The bulk of the planes will be for foreign powers, but some will remain with the U.S. military. Here’s a rundown:
▪ 64 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force
▪ 26 F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps
▪ 16 F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy
▪ 89 F-35As and F-35Bs for ally countries.
▪ 60 F-35As for foreign military sales.
The F-35A, used by the U.S. Air Force, is the most common version of the jet and needs a runway for take off. The F-35B has vertical take-off and landing capabilities, like a helicopter, and the F-35C is specifically designed for aircraft carries.
The foreign military sales program provides jets to Israel, Japan, South Korea and Belgium, according to Lockheed Martin. In July the company delivered fighters to Turkey over the objection of some in Congress.
The F-35 fleet is one of the most expensive weapons system in the United States. The cost per aircraft will reach about $80 million by 2020, according to Lockheed Martin.
Terms of the contract have not been finalized, but the Department of Defense funded the initial $6 billion while details are worked out.
“This is a smart approach for the taxpayer, the warfighter and for industry,” the company said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the government’s proactive action and partnership to maintain supply chain stability, reduce costs and ensure deliveries remain on track to meet growing demand around the globe.”
Hundreds of the fighter were grounded earlier this year for inspection after a crash in South Carolina. More than 250 F-35s will be affected in the United States, as well as nearly 100 in other nations. The jets were believed to have faulty fuel lines.
Demand for the F-35 continues to grow. Lockheed Martin plans to pump out about 90 in 2018, according to its website, with production hitting more than 160 annually by 2023.
The company estimates production supports 194,00 direct and indirect U.S. jobs and with an economic impact of about $31 billion.
Representatives from Lockheed Martin could not be reached for comment on Thursday’s announcement.