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West Virginia has a role in aircraft

In Ravenswood last week, officials from Lockheed Martin showcased the F-35 Lightning II fighter, which is part of the firm's fifth-generation fighter jet program.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., attended the event because it's important to West Virginia.

There were many reasons why Lockheed was in Ravenswood:

* The Constellium Rolled Products plant at Ravenswood produces 10 percent of the aluminum in each F-35.

* About 800 of the 950 jobs at Constellium are tied to the F-35 program.

* Statewide, there are 2,442 people with jobs in the aerospace and aircraft industry.

* Those jobs pay wages that average $1,251.69 a week, or $65,000 a year, according to Workforce West Virginia.

The F-35 is far superior to the F-22s and F-16s it will replace.

"We should not send pilots into harm's way with jets designed for warfare in the '70s and '80s," said Danny Conroy, Lockheed Martin's program director for the F-35. "These pilots need the capabilities that the F-35 has."

Under the Bush administration, the military ordered 2,443 F-35s geared to the needs of the Marines, the Air Force and the Navy at a cost of $385 billion over the next decade.

Whether the military will purchase all 2,443 planes is another matter. Relative peace has a way of making some American administrations complacent about

  • ational defense and leadership of the free world.
  • Americans like to think that the Soviet Union's demise ended the need for this country to be prepared for a traditional war, but the wider the advantage we have, the  less likely someone is to start a fight.

    Taking a "peace dividend" after winning World War I helped lay the groundwork for World War II. For 68 years, there has been no World War III.

    Jobs in West Virginia are not enough to justify completing this program, no matter how lucrative they are.

    Peace is the real reason for the upgrade the F-35 offers. Not having to go to war for at least a generation is the most valuable peace dividend there is.

    Technological advances make that more likely.


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