ZEELAND, Mich. -- Employees at Woodward Inc. in Zeeland who build engine components for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets showed Congressman Bill Huizenga and the public Tuesday more about how the jets work and their impact on Michigan's economy and the military.
The F-35 Lightning II is a single-seat, single-engine fighter jet that, according to U.S. military officials, has the world's most powerful fighter engine. Huizenga, R - Zeeland, toured Woodward Inc's manufacturing plant Tuesday and says these jets give our military and our allies an advantage.
"It really does allow for us to have a completely different capability and a different level than any other country in the world at this point," said Huizenga.
"We know that the others are trying to get there, but we maybe much like the space race, we beat them to it. We’ve got to maintain that technological supremacy as well."
In 2017 the F-35 program delivered its 200th fighter jet for pilot training as pilot classes trained solely on this Fifth Generation fighter technology graduate. Yet the U.S. military faces historically low pilot retention.
"One of the things that we’ve seen over the last number of years is a massive reduction in size of our military," said Huizenga.
"We are the smallest Navy that we’ve had since World War I; we’ve got to rebuild that. And the F-35 and that project is a part of that."
F-35 statistics show its production created 3,310 jobs in Michigan with an estimated $289,200,000 economic impact statewide. In Zeeland, Woodward Inc. Vice President Joe Patterson says in the last three years they've created 50 news jobs in the plant.
"It’s such a critical program for our government," said Patterson, "we have several members that are veterans, some of their families are still in the services. So we’re very, very proud to be part of the military supply chain if you will."
The $400 billion F-35 program is the most expensive weapon system in history, though it has had its problems. In June F-35 jets were temporarily grounded after a string of pilots were passing out due to oxygen deprivation for unexplained reasons.