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A Look inside 'Cockpit' of an F-35

(Source: Kate Thornton)

"It's amazing," said Congressman Richard Hanna (R, 22nd District) as he stepped out of a F-35 Lightning II cockpit demonstrator at Lockheed Martin in Owego.

Both congressmen representing Tioga County, including Tom Reed (R, 23rd Distrtict) were at Monday's public relations campaign for a very expensive defense program. 

"Okay, let's try not to crash," said Reed jokingly as he maneuvered around the simulated pilot experience.

The F-35 program has been the center of controversy over it's costly spending with little to show.

But, for congressmen fighting for jobs in their home districts, it's billion of dollars well spent.

"One of the things on a federal level that are a priority is making sure our national security is protected," said Reed

"We're not here to give anybody a blank check for anything.  We're here to build the best product at the lowest price, and that's what Lockheed Martin does," said Hanna.

One the top attributes the F-35 posses is its super computer, or the Integrated Cor Processor, which is built in Lockheed Martin's Owego plant.

"It's the brains, and the piece that puts it in the right direction, and allows all the sensor data collection and  everything else on the platform to be handled properly," said Vice President of Electronic Product Line at Lockheed Martin Mark Swymeler.

But, what sets the F-35 apart from the rest is how stealth it is.  For example, radar has a harder time detecting the aircraft than a fourth generation aircraft, which will pick up a plane sooner and easier.

The current fourth generation fighter aircrafts, the F-35 is designed to replace, have an average age of 24 years old.

Despite a flat production rate for the last 5 years, the program is beginning to ramp up.

Thirty aircraft were built last year.  That's about 3 planes a month, and is expected to increase by 20% next year. 

The goal is produce 108 aircraft a month by 2018.

"That's one of the biggest cost affordability drivers, is getting up to rate and building airplanes year after year," said F-35 Navy Director Bob Rubino.

Lockheed says the F-35 program has provided more than 3,800 hundred direct and indirect jobs and nearly $600-million in economic impact across the state.

Rubino said as productivity increases in the next five years, so will jobs and the economic impact.

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