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Lockheed Martin showcases F-35s at Constellium

By John Gibb

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.

"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.gibb@dailymail.com or 304-348-4872.

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