Monday, January 3, 2011
Jobs Here and Now, Not Over There and Gone for Good
It’s an undeniable fact that the aerospace and defense industry provides some of our nation’s most vital and valued jobs. Any new aircraft that takes to the skies to move people and cargo or defend the nation is a testament to the skilled labor of love by thousands of engineers, machinists, test pilots, sales and support staff, as well as government overseers. And the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is no exception. Thanks to a strong team at the Department of Defense, Lockheed martin, Pratt & Whitney and hundreds of suppliers, the F-35 will deliver unmatched capability for the U.S. and its allies for decades to come.
Yet, if the F136 extra engine team had their way, nearly 40 percent of the jobs to bring their underperforming, over-budget engine to market – through the discredited earmark process no less – would be outsourced to England, which isn’t a state the last time I checked my trusty desktop atlas.
That’s the simple point made in Pratt & Whitney’s latest print ad, which has garnered support from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 26 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Organized labor understands that high value aerospace jobs are an irreplaceable strategic asset, especially when unemployment stands at 9.8% and 15.1 million American citizens remain out of work.
Meanwhile, the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine goes from strength to strength. Over the holiday break, Initial Service Release for the F135 Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing variant was achieved as anticipated. This milestone means the propulsion system is now certified as the production configuration and cleared for flight in the Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighter.
We also sold our first two STOVL production propulsion systems and delivered them to Lockheed Martin in December. Of the 12 production engines delivered to date, eight have already been installed in their respective aircraft, while negotiations for an LRIP 4 contract have moved from a “cost plus” to a firm fixed price basis.
Not content to rest on our laurels, Pratt & Whitney is taking aggressive steps to work from Pentagon acquisition chief Dr. Ashton Carter’s “will cost” curve and looking for additional opportunities to lower prices, The company plans to sell the F135 at the same cost as the F-22 powering F119 by the 250th engine, which is significant since the F135 is 1,500 pounds heavier and generates 25% more thrust.
Bottom line, Pratt & Whitney’s engine is real, gaining its last ISR certification, performing at a 98% readiness level, and being installed in an increasing number of production aircraft. It simply makes no sense to cut deliveries of this proven engine in favor of the F136 that is years behind, seemingly always “just one more billion dollars” from completion, living off of wasteful earmarks, and inherently duplicative – except when it comes to the ever-present issue of American jobs. On that last topic, the F136 falls on the wrong side of the pond and as they say in Britain, that’s just not cricket.