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Lockheed workers cheer historic contract

Oct. 26, 2001 at 7:39 PM

FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin executives and workers leaped in the air and cheered loudly Friday when they learned their plant had won a $200 billion contract to build the Joint Strike Fighter in the largest U.S. defense contract ever awarded.

"One word describes how I feel today and that's ecstatic," said Dain Hancock, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, after the announcement in a Pentagon news conference.

Hancock thanked the hundreds of Lockheed Martin workers packed in an auditorium at the Fort Worth plant when their company was picked over Boeing after a five-year competition. Plans call for the manufacture of more than 3,000 aircraft over the 40-year contract.

The stealthy, supersonic fighter was designed for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. There are versions for conventional landings and takeoffs, carrier landings and short take-off/vertical landings.

In a video conference call, Lockheed Martin Chairman Vance Coffman told the Fort Worth workers he was pleased that the U.S. and British governments had chosen their design.

"We intend to honor that trust by building a truly remarkable, capable and affordable, next-generation multi-role fighter, on schedule and on cost," he said. "On behalf of Lockheed Martin, I pledge our full commitment to this cornerstone of future defense capability."

The new fighter will replace the A-10, the AV-8 Harrier, F-16 and the F/A-18. The F-16 was manufactured at the Fort Worth plant, which has a history that stretches back to the famed B-24 bombers that were build during World War II.

The winning JSF team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. Final assembly will be at the Fort Worth plant and major subassemblies will be produced at Northrup Grumman in El Segundo, Calif., and BAE Systems at Samlesbury, England.

Hancock said several other countries have expressed interest in the fighter, including the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Turkey.

In a teleconference later, Hancock said the program would initially generate about 2,500 new jobs at Lockheed Martin and 1,200 to 1,300 new jobs each at Northrup Grumman and BAE.

Asked if Lockheed Martin might bring Boeing into the program down the road, Hancock said his company has focused to date on winning the contract with the best talents of its team.

"Now going forward if the government believes it's in the best interest of this country, the taxpayers, and the services that some of the technologies that Boeing has brought to the table are applicable and appropriate and they'd like to proceed with that, then we'll do what the government would like us to do in that case," he said.

Lockheed Martin officials received a congratulatory call from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and several members of the Texas Congressional delegation were at the plant for the announcement.

"This is a great victory, not just for Lockheed, but for Texas," said Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas. "By building the Joint Strike Fighter, you will fuel Texas's economy with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenues."

The contract is expected to bring 32,000 jobs and billions in tax revenues to Texas over the next four decades.

Frost recalled when his father worked at the Fort Worth plant.

"By winning the JSF, we have ensured that there will be mothers and fathers working in this plant for a long, long time."

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