The nation needs all 2,400-plus F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters now on order, Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Rep. Phil Gingrey said Wednesday during a visit to Lockheed Martin's Marietta plant, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The Republican lawmakers said they expect the F-35 program to survive the current round of federal budget cuts, although Chambliss acknowledged being wrong when he thought the same thing about Lockheed Martin's F-22, the AJC says.
The Marietta plant produces the center wing of the aircraft, which is assembled in Fort Worth, TX. The lawmakers' visit, which the AJC says included a ride in the F-35 flight simulator, came 13 months after the plant began working on the fighter.
F-35 work was projected to keep 600 employees busy in Marietta by 2016, the company said last year. Now company officials are saying peak production around 2015 will employ about 1,000 people plus 500 subcontractors, the Marietta Daily Journal reports.
F-35 flight operations resumed Friday after the plane was grounded Aug. 2 because of electrical system failures.
That change allowed Lockheed Martin to deliver the ninth and 10th F-35s this year. The planes flew Wednesday from the Fort Worth plant to Eglin Air Force Base, FL, where they arrived at 2:19 p.m., Lockheed Martin says.
Gingrey's plant visit came between town-hall meetings in his 11th District. The Marietta Republican met with constituents in Cartersville on Monday and has a meeting set for noon Thursday at the Ben Robertson Community Center in Kennesaw.