F-35 Fighter Jet is a Game Changer for Yuma

Feb. 18th, 2012
Julie Engel

As the debate in Washington rages over spending cuts to a variety of military and civilian programs, I am growing increasingly concerned over how these cuts will affect Yuma County and our 23 percent unemployment rate. As we work to create jobs and rebuild a community that has supported Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a program that will accelerate our road to recovery. Unfortunately, Congress is considering cuts to the program as they look for ways to curb the deficit, and we need to make sure they understand the importance of the F-35 to our community. The F-35 is America’s next fifth generation, stealthy multi-role fighter. Not only does it support our brave military forces here at MCAS Yuma, but it also supports the full extent of the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Having a single aircraft that can be utilized by multiple branches of our military is not only the most practical military decision I have seen from Washington, but is also the most economical. For our Marines, the aging AV-8B Harriers will be replaced with a short take-off and vertical landing version of the F-35, which will ensure that our Marines can execute their missions on a moment’s notice, globally. For the Navy and Air Force, the F-35 will replace Cold War era F-18 Hornets and F-16 Hornets, which have served America and its allies dutifully, but are no longer capable of providing the full support our troops need in the battlefield. As any revolutionary, complex aircraft requires, the F-35 program has been in development, design and test phases for over a decade and is ready to ramp up production. This is good news for Yuma County, the state of Arizona and the United States. The F-35 will bring new work to the area as MCAS Yuma modernizes its facilities to maintain and sustain a force of 88 F-35B fighters. It is estimated that these renovations will add $1 billion to the Yuma County economy and that much of a financial infusion will certainly help reinvigorate our workforce and get the county heading back toward better times. Yuma County is not the only winner in the program, as Luke Air Force Base is currently the preferred site for F-35 training and would receive 72 F-35A variants, the standard take-off and landing version of the plane. Overall, the F-35 benefits Arizona by supporting over 19 program suppliers, producing over 400 jobs and driving over $87 million into our state’s economy. The impact the F-35 has for the country is even more impressive. Lockheed Martin has contracted with 1,300 suppliers in 47 states that will employ 127,000 Americans. For the lifetime of the program, the United States will see more than $380 billion in total domestic economic impact. The F-35 program is clearly a game changing program for the county, state and country in a time when we need it most. Very few opportunities like the F-35 come along where a national effort builds a product that both restores confidence in our domestic economy while protecting the United States from threats abroad. There are lots of issues facing this country, but the F-35 is a positive issue that requires our support and the support of our elected representatives to guarantee that bright days are on the horizon. Julie Engel is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Council.

Julie Engel
President/CEO, Greater Yuma EDC
The Sun
Feb. 18th, 2012