Canadian Defence Review

 

May 22, 2013

 

Title: Lockheed beefs up F-35 campaign

Sub-title: Moves to build public support for fifth generation fighter

 

Lockheed Martin is initiating a series of moves to boost the image of its F-35 Lighting fighter, in response to the Canadian government’s policy decision to consider alternatives to this fifth generation stealth aircraft.

 

Last month company officials conducted presentations in major Canadian markets, to showcase the F-35, its capabilities and the economic benefits the program provides. The demonstration included a rough simulator, where journalists were able to visualize a series of prospective missions, demonstrated by Billy Flynn, a former Royal Canadian Air Force officer, who has recycled himself as a F-35 text pilot and become one of the program’s most effective spokespersons.

 

“The choice that Canadians are going to make on the next generation fighter is crucial,” said Flynn. “Don’t kid yourself. This aircraft is going to be around for at least 40 years. The question is: do we want to buy the latest and best technologies available for emerging missions such as patrolling Canada Polar Regions? Or do we want to buy one of the competitor models, many of which have been around for years, and which are nearing the end of their productions cycles?”

 

At the Montreal presentation Lockheed Martin also trotted out a series of program suppliers, such as PCC Aerostructures Dorval, Atlantic Composites and Héroux-Devtek, who explained the surprising number of economic benefits that their companies and local industry were deriving from the program.

 

Larry Fitzgerald from PCC Aerostructures also noted the importance of the infrastructure being put in place to produce the F-35, in generating business in other areas. “We just spent $3.5 million to install a Makino MAG3 machining and tooling capability, in large part to supply Lockheed Martin orders,” said Fitzgerald. “However we will also be able to use that additional capacity to supply other clients. That means the program’s spin-off benefits are much larger than they appear at first glance.

 

According to Chris Widerstrom, a business development spokesperson at Lockheed Martin, the company is also providing logistical support and advice to a grass roots Canadian Industry Group of about 10 suppliers, who will launch a series of initiatives to pitch the program’s benefits at the ground floor level. “We are starting to get the word out there,” admits Widerstrom. “But we also have a lot of work ahead of us.”

 

 

peter@peterdiekmeyer.com

 

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