"We desire to help improve aerospace, and this is a great opportunity to do that. We have a strong position in the marketplace with innovative solutions on aluminum."
"For us, customers are important, so it is great to see Lockheed Martin here today. This is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase our world-class employees and facilities."
Constellium has nearly 9,000 employees globally, and its net worth is about $4 billion. Lorentzen said the Ravenswood plant would be heavily involved in the F-35 program for years to come.
Last year, only 30 F-35 jets were produced. Lockheed Martin plans to increase that figure by 20 percent this year. It hopes to be at full rate production, or 180 to 200 F-35 jets yearly, by the year 2020. According to the company, that is needed to replace the country's outdated fleet of fourth-generation fighter jets.
Conroy said the average age of a fighter jet in today's military is 24 years. He said it is time to update aircraft technology to 21st century standards.
"We should not send pilots into harm's way with jets designed for warfare in the '70s and '80s," Conroy said. "These pilots need the capabilities that the F-35 has."
Manchin said he supports the F-35 program and commends the employees at the Ravenswood Constellium plant for their contributions. He said despite opposition from Washington officials concerning cost, the United States needs to invest in projects like this to maintain a competitive edge.
Lockheed estimates that an F-35 will cost about $85 million by 2020, the target for full rate production. In today's dollars, that's about $75 million, according to the company.
"People in China are copying what we are doing with lightning speed," Manchin said. "We need to maintain our competitive edge, and this technology will be able to defend the free world in the 21st century."
Capito thanked Constellium workers for their service and for playing a part in helping defend the nation. She said she is excited about the innovation.
A representative from Sen. Jay Rockefeller's office read a statement addressing the need for the F-35 and how it is going to play a crucial role in defending the nation.
Contact writer John C. Gibb at john.g...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4872.
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