At the height of last year’s debate over whether to build more Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighters at $130-million a pop, air-power alarmists played the jobs card. “More than 95,000 American jobs” depend on continued production of the F-22 Raptor fighter, the apparently industry-funded advocacy group Preserve Raptor Jobs screeched.
“Problem is, that 95,000 number counts indirect employment at firms for whom the F-22 program is just one of many clients,” War Is Boring countered. “And it also counts Lockheed assembly workers who are in high demand for other aviation projects. In fact, ending Raptor production today might not result in a single unemployed aerospace worker.”
A year later, we’re being proved right. As the F-22 build winds down, workers at Lockheed’s Raptor-factory in Marietta, Georgia are shifting to the follow-on F-35 fighter, also a Lockheed product. “Marietta’s available facilities, tooling and worker experience with the F-22 are key enablers for F-35 program production,” said Lockheed’s Larry Lawson.
There are lots of good reasons why we should have bought more F-22s (and perhaps fewer F-35s), but jobs is not one of them. Minor policy decisions regarding particular airframes will not have a major impact on the overall U.S. aerospace industry, the world’s largest by far. Pentagon plans anticipate steady funding for a wide range of airplanes for the next 30 years.