With sequestration, the question must be asked: Is the F-35 program affordable?
The Government Accounting Office recently reported that changes and improvements in the F-35 program has put it "on firmer footing" and said that the "F-35 is critical to long-term recapitalization plans as it is intended to replace hundreds of existing aircraft."
There are 60 F-35 aircraft flying today in testing programs. An F-35 purchased today costs more than 50 percent less than those purchased just five years ago, and this trend will continue. Export sales to our international partners are expected to reach $200 billion.
Why is the F-35 important to Beaufort? Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort is the designated training base for all F-35B pilots. Any pilot who flies the F-35B will have lived and trained in Beaufort County. Unlike the Desert Storm days, when practically the entire base deployed for more than a year, leaving Beaufort a virtual ghost town, the F-35B training squadrons will be here to stay. These squadrons will be double the size of the air station's current deploying squadrons. They also will welcome close to 100 new pilots a year, producing a continuous flow of new families into our community. Other jobs will also accompany the arrival of this aircraft, with more than 200 new positions to support the training and simulation center.
Beaufort's F-35B represents a smart investment in our economic future, and most importantly, the preservation of our freedom.
Blakely Williams, president
Chamber of Commerce