CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Sen. Joe Manchin showcased his pilot skills Thursday by navigating a fifth-generation fighter jet.
Although he was guided by an instructor pilot and was behind the controls of a simulator, Manchin got to experience firsthand the technologically advanced world of military aircraft.
Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company worth about $4.7 billion that employs about 118,000 people, provided the interactive cockpit simulator of the F-35 Lightning II.
It was demonstrated at Constellium Rolled Products. The Ravenswood plant supplies Lockheed with components needed to build F-35 fighter jets. In fact, roughly 10 percent of each F-35 contains aluminum manufactured at the Ravenswood plant.
Bob DuLaney, an F-35 customer engagement representative for Lockheed Martin, said the F-35 is essentially defining the future of fighter jets. The aircraft provides the pilot with unprecedented situational awareness and unmatched lethality and survivability.
With advanced stealth capabilities and performance, the F-35 is the game changer that will strengthen military defense and change the way military tasks are performed, he said.
DuLaney said unlike fourth-generation military aircraft such as the F-16 and F-22, the F-35 has eight times the processing power with 8.6 million lines of code, or programming language. The F-22 has 2.2 million lines of code and has little fighter performance.
"The F-35 allows the pilot to feel like a real fighter pilot with 9g of maneuverability," DuLaney said. "This new aircraft simplifies the complex tasks of war and are, in a sense, more efficient and effective than the fourth-generation aircrafts that the military has used for upwards of 30 years."
The F-35 has three variants that represent more than 50 years of fighter development technology. The conventional takeoff and landing, short takeoff-vertical landing and carrier variants are currently flying at supersonic speeds to assist in defending threats and protect national security.
Data collected by F-35 sensors can be immediately shared with commanders at sea, in the air or on the ground, providing an instantaneous, high-fidelity view of ongoing operations, therefore making it a formidable force multiplier.
Before Manchin was seated in the simulator, Kyle Lorentzen, CEO of Constellium; Danny Conroy, Lockheed Martin's program director for the F-35; Manchin; and West Virginia Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito made remarks regarding the F-35 program and Constellium's role in production.
Lorentzen said his company is a global leader in aluminum products and is a key supplier of aluminum plates for Lockheed Martin's F-35 program. Of the 950 Ravenswood employees, 800 play a part in manufacturing the critical components needed to build an F-35.
"We have maintained a positive relationship with Lockheed Martin for more than 25 years and have been involved in the F-35 project for nearly eight years," Lorentzen said.