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AREA, STATE OFFICIALS LOBBY BELTWAY FOR FIGHTER.

Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

State, union and Antelope Valley officials are in Washington, D.C., lobbying California's congressional representatives to back efforts to bring joint strike fighter production to California - and specifically to the Antelope Valley.

The delegation wants California's senators and representatives to pressure the Pentagon to study the cost of producing the fighter at Lockheed Martin and Boeing plants in St. Louis and Fort Worth compared with the cost of doing so in the former B-2 assembly plant in Palmdale.

``What we are hoping for is for them to use their political muscle to get the Department of Defense to take a look at the cost of building the joint strike fighter in the various places that are being talked about,'' said Assemblyman George Runner, R-Lancaster, who is one of the lobbying group making the two-day trip to the nation's capital.

Designed to replace the Air Force's F-16 and the Marine AV-8B Harrier, the joint strike fighter is the last great military aircraft production program on the Pentagon's horizon - bringing with it an estimated 10,000 production jobs and 40,000 related jobs.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are building rival joint strike fighter prototypes in Palmdale, but both have indicated their assembly lines would be elsewhere: Boeing in St. Louis, where its workers assemble F-15 fighters, and Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, where it builds the F-16.

In meetings Wednesday with 25 congressional staffers and 12 Democratic members of Congress, state Trade and Commerce Agency director Lon Hatamiya outlined the results of a study - financed by Palmdale and Hatamiya's agency - that says the government could save $2.2 billion by assembling the new fighter in Palmdale.

U.S. Air Force Plant 42's Site 4, where the stealth bombers were assembled, was built specifically for manufacturing stealthy aircraft, as the joint strike fighter will be.

U.S. Rep. Howard ``Buck'' McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, who has been working at getting production in California for close to a year and who arranged the officials' visit, said California faces an uphill struggle. Lockheed Martin and Boeing want the work to keep occupied the workers now building F-15s and F-16s.

``This is an ongoing effort,'' McKeon said by telephone from Washington. ``I think you build support, and I think we are doing a pretty good job of doing that.''

The Trade and Commerce study, prepared for $25,000 by SDS International of Virginia, upped the projection for potential Plant 42 cost savings from initial estimates, giving California officials more ammunition for convincing the Pentagon to look into the issue, McKeon said.

``We have a lot more information now. We have this independent study which shows much better numbers,'' McKeon said. ``We were talking millions, compared to billions'' in savings.

The delegation also told the House members that companies that could supply parts for the program are spread throughout the state's congressional districts: more than 1,500 in one Orange County district alone.

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PHOTO (Color) The Pentagon's next-generation joint strike fighter is designed to replace the Air Force's F-16 and the Marine AV-8B Harrier.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 5, 1999
Words:515
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