By Mike Hellon
What are you up to, Washington? I know that America is burning through cash faster than we can print it. I know that Congress wants to make major cuts to an assortment of programs. And, I know that our economy is slowly growing. Fortunately, for Arizona and America, Senator John McCain has been leading the charge to curb debt in Washington and he should be commended for his work. Cuts are not easy, and finding cuts that everyone will agree on is impossible.
The F-35 is America’s next 5th generation, stealthy fighter. This fiscally responsible multi-role aircraft will serve the needs of the United States Air Force, Navy and Marines. It will replace cold war era warhorses such as the F-16 Falcon, F-18 Hornet, and the AV-8B Harrier aircraft and provide these three branches with a single versatile platform. Utilizing a single platform aircraft for three military services enables the F-35 to be built faster and more importantly, cheaper. While the F-35 is essential to our military’s many missions, the aircraft will play a major role in Arizona and provide work and economic growth at a time when we need it most.
Luke Air Force Base has been designated by the Air Force as their preferred flight training center and should the F-35 program continue, it will bring an abundance of Air Force personnel to Arizona. In Yuma, the story is similar. The Marine Corps Air Station Yuma (MCAS) will host 88 of the F-35’s Short-takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant and will also see an uptick in military personnel. These two bases are critical to Arizona and provide substantial economic stability to the entire state. The economic impact the F-35 has to this state and country are substantial and this is an important fact that many in Washington are overlooking.
In Arizona alone, over 300 high-techs, high paying jobs are provided through 17 F-35 supplier locations. This activity alone drives $43.6 million direct into Arizona’s economy. Once the F-35’s are delivered to Luke and Yuma, we will see the addition of staff and renovations to both the bases that will total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Nationally, the F-35 program will support 1,350 nationwide suppliers, creating over 133,000 direct and indirect American jobs and $17.8 billion annually into the nation’s economy. It is safe to say that the F-35 is a big deal for Arizona and a bigger deal for our entire nation.
We need to make sure that Senator McCain and the rest of Arizona’s Congressional delegation understand how we feel towards this program and how it will make Arizona a better place.
Mike Hellon is retired USAF and candidate for Pima County Supervisor