Connecticut’s aerospace industry and its backers took a victory lap Monday, celebrating the state’s contribution to the joint strike fighter.
Lockheed Martin Corp., which makes the fighter jet, set up an F-35 cockpit demonstrator at Spartan Aerospace LLC, a Manchester manufacturer, simulating the aircraft’s technology and how it performs in combat.
“It was really quite unbelievable,” Emily Lukowski, 17, of Hebron and a RHAM High School Student who is bound for the U.S. Air Force Academy, said after simulating a takeoff, flight and a landing.
The simulator was the draw at Spartan Aerospace, which hosted Lockheed Martin and Pratt executives to play up the industry.
Great morning with one of our great suppliers! @RepJohnLarson & @jahimes joined @prattandwhitney supplier Spartan Aerospace at @LockheedMartin’s @thef35 simulator event.Thank you to these two congressmen for their support of the F35 & F135 programs + U.S. suppliers! #UTCinAmerica pic.twitter.com/MJLf2M2aw7
— UTC Policy (@UTCpolicy) June 4, 2018
The aerospace manufacturer, which employs about 100 workers, is a supplier to Pratt & Whitney, the East Hartford-based jet engine subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. The U.S. Defense Department announced last week a $2 billion contract for the 11th lot of F135 propulsion systems.
The military expects to boost production to 150 and 160 a year in the next two or three years from 91 a year now, said Robert Rubino, deputy director of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program.
Manufacturing the fighter jet has a $31 billion economic impact nationally, he said, with Connecticut among the top five states.
Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, called the fighter jet an “incredible tool” available to the U.S. military. An extensive network of small, often family-owned suppliers to Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin ensures “we are staying on top of our game” in manufacturing, he said.
Arthur Erikson, executive director of strategic sourcing and contracts at Pratt and Whitney, said the company expects to double the amount it spends in Connecticut to $1.5 billion from $750 million over the next several years.
In addition to military spending that’s increasing, rising commercial aerospace also accounts for higher demand.
“It’s a tremendous time to be in aerospace,” Erikson said.