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David Jolly extols virtues of the F-35 during cockpit demonstration in Pinellas

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

What do Pinellas County and Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, have in common?

Location, economic interests and Congressman David Jolly.

Today, Jolly visited Lockheed’s nearly 20-year-old Pinellas Park operations center for a demonstration of the company’s F-35 Lightning II mobile cockpit simulator.

“We are a safer nation, and a securer nation, because of the F-35,” said Jolly — the event’s keynote speaker — during an address to media, Lockheed Martin employees, and federal, state and local elected officials.

“We are a country with all the military might in the world,” continued Jolly, “that relies on individuals from Pinellas County and across the country to create, design, manufacture, sustain the fleet that allows the men and women who wear the uniform of the armed forces to be the most incredible fighting force on the face of the earth.”

The F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealthmultirole fighters currently undergoing final development and testing by the United States.

Lockheed Martin’s Pinellas Park headquarters produce F-35 fabrication detail parts and canopy assemblies for all new manufacturing and sustainment efforts.

“The jobs that support the F-35 program are essential to our economy here in the Tampa Bay,” added Jolly.

According to Danny Conroy, director of the USAF F-35 program, there are more than 13,000 direct and indirect jobs tied to the F-35 program in Florida and an economic impact of approximately $2.1 billion.

“We are pleased to demonstrate to the employees at our Pinellas Park facility and the Tampa Bay community the capabilities of the F-35 Lightning II,” said Conroy, “the world’s most advanced military aircraft.”

To demonstrate the world’s most advanced military aircraft’s virtual capabilities was a visually and audibly interactive cockpit simulator, which provided a realistic look at the F-35’s performance, air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities, sensor fusion sophistication, and advanced computational capabilities.

The F-35 program has more than 1,300 suppliers in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Thousands more are employed in the F-35 program’s partner countries, which include the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Norway.

“We here at the Pinellas Park facility are proud to play a critical role in building the parts and components that support and protect the pilots who fly the F-35 Lightning II,” commented Steve Cobb, general manager of Lockheed’s Pinellas operations, before Jolly jumped in the cockpit for the first test-run.

An individual F-35’s projected cost — according to the U.S. government — stands at $85 million.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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