Gov. Laura Kelly urges Congress to invest in F-35 fighter, support Kansas aviation industry


TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly urged congressional leaders to support production of the F-35 fighter jet associated with three dozen manufacturing suppliers in Kansas and linked to nearly 5,000 jobs in the state.

Kelly sent letters to members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate armed services committees and the defense appropriations subcommittees to support the domestic aviation industry, create jobs and encourage economic development in Kansas by supporting the F-35 Lightning II program.

She requested Republican and Democratic party members support President Joe Biden’s budget request for 83 F-35 jets. On an annual basis, the F-35 program has an estimated $540 million economic impact on Kansas.

“Enhancing F-35 production is important to Kansas’ future as it generates economic opportunities for our residents and supports American national security,” Kelly said. “The combined benefits of job creation, defense modernization and our state’s aviation expertise make the F-35 program valuable for Kansas and the United States.”

The fighter has encountered technology and cost-overrun challenges since entering production in 2006, but canceling the program with Lockheed Martin would be politically difficult because that would eliminate thousands of jobs.

In April, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded a $7.8 billion contract modification for F-35 aircraft to Lockheed Martin. The Defense Department last year agreed with Lockheed Martin on building about 375 F-35 fighters over three years.