Friday, November 30, 2012


Guess what folks.  The pilots to fly this plane will be trained at Eglin AFB in Northwest Florida.  Oh, by the way, this number does not include the remaining planes purchased by the Navy and Marine, which will total an estimated purchase of 2,400 for the U.S.  On top of that, you have the United KingdomItaly, the NetherlandsCanadaTurkey,AustraliaNorway and Denmark, who have agreed to purchase additional planes from Lockheed Martin, which will make the total acquisition of F-35’s to 3,100.  Don’t think Lockheed has stop there.  Talks are in the works with Israel and Japan for some more planes.  WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR NORTHWEST FLORIDA?:  It means a very dynamic economy and a new and a diverse demographic.  As the planes come off the assembly line, so does the new pilots and their supporting casts begin to show up for training, meetings, negotiations, and just plain enjoy the Emerald Coast. 

“I seen it up close and personal.  It is lethal”

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
NEW YORK | Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:12pm EST
(Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force affirmed on Thursday its plans to buy 1,763 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) in coming years, as Lockheed and the government neared agreement on a multi-billion dollar contract for a fifth batch of planes.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told an investor conference that the service remained committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which alone accounts for 15 percent of the service's annual investment spending, and had no plans to revise its projected purchase of 1,763 of the new radar-evading jets. "I don't think there's any reason to revisit that anytime in the near future," Donley told the Credit Suisse conference, underscoring his support for the Pentagon's biggest weapons program.  He said it was not feasible to consider cutting orders or make other major changes to the $396 billion F-35 program, which has already been restructured three times in recent years to allow more time for technology development and to save money. The Pentagon is looking closely at every aspect of its budget given mounting pressure to cut defense spending, and programs as large as the F-35 are always potential targets. But Lockheed executives argue that the Defense Department has already reduced production of the new plane sharply from projected levels, cutting into the economies of scale that were supposed to make the new warplane more affordable. Donley said he had heard proposals about cutting F-35 purchases to save money for other priorities, but said such ideas did not make sense at this point in the program. "These are good theoretical discussions, but when you look at where we are in the program, it makes no sense to have these discussions until about 2025," Donley said. "There is nothing in the near-term about this program that will change; there is nothing that it will contribute to deficit reduction in the next ten years with the exception of its cancellation." And cancellation of the program, he said, was something no one would recommend. Donley said the U.S. government was "getting close" to an agreement with Lockheed about a fifth batch of F-35 jets. Lockheed President Marillyn Hewson told the conference earlier on Thursday that talks with the Pentagon - which have been under way for about a year - were going well and an agreement was likely before the end of the year. "Those negotiations are progressing well," she said at her first major presentation to Wall Street investors since being named Lockheed president and chief operating officer earlier this month. "I do feel confident that we're going to get to closure on Lot 5 this year," she said. Lockheed and the Pentagon were also making progress in talks about additional funding for early work on the sixth batch of F-35 jets, said Hewson. She will become Lockheed's CEO in January, succeeding Christopher Kubasik, who was forced out after admitting to having an affair with a subordinate. Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said Hewson had played a key role in the company's talks with the Pentagon, and the two sides had "closed a lot of our differences." Details of the expected agreement were not immediately available, but sources familiar with the negotiations said they expected it to include a reduction in the cost for each F-35 fighter jet from the fourth production contract, although the number of jets to be ordered will not increase. The Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told Reuters on Wednesday that the two sides were "getting close" to an agreement on the fifth production contract. He said he had "a very positive meeting" on Tuesday with Hewson about a range of issues, including the F-35. Lockheed, the Pentagon's largest contractor, and its suppliers are already building the fifth batch of F-35 planes under a preliminary contract, but the two sides have been struggling since last December to finalize the deal. In September, Air Force Major General Christopher Bogdan, who is moving up to head the F-35 program next week, said ties between Lockheed and the U.S. government were "the worst" he had ever seen in his years working on big acquisition programs. Hewson told analysts earlier this month that the F-35 program would be one of her top priorities in her new job. Agreement on the terms of the fifth F-35 contract would free up additional funding for early work on a sixth set of planes, which the company has been funding on its own for some time. Lockheed last month told investors that it faced a potential termination liability of $1.1 billion on that sixth batch of planes, unless it received more funds soon. The Pentagon has refused to release any more money for the sixth batch of planes until the two sides resolve their differences and sign a contract for the fifth batch.
(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, John Wallace and Tim Dobbyn)

Saturday, November 24, 2012


As promised, the British have arrived.   These pilots, as well as, the pilots for the Air Force, Marines, Navy, and other pilots from around the globe, who bring their supporting casts and their families, and make Northwest Florida their home for some time to come.  This program will continue to grow and bring more and more pilots and maintainers from around the world to receive their training on the newest state of the art fighter plane of the future.  What does this mean to our area?  International recognition, high-tech investment, and a community which will become more and more diverse.  With these factors alone, you can expect an economic boast and investment to be on the rise. 

First 2 U.K. pilots begin F-35 training
They and 12 maintainers are attached to a Marine unit at Eglin
   315-4443 | @LaurenRnwfdn 
  EGLIN AFB — Last week, the first two United Kingdom pilots started training to fly the F-35. They join an elite rank. Only 30 pilots in the world have been or are in the process of training to fly the new stealth fighter jet, which still is in testing phases.   “It’s an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Royal Air Force squadron leader Franki Buchler, one of the two pilots. “I feel very privileged and lucky. I hope I do the aircraft and the Air Force justice.”  Buchler and fellow pilot, Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. Ian Tidball, have joined the U.S. Marines Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, which is conducting initial training and instruction on the F-35B at Eglin Air Force Base.  The Air Force is conducting similar training on the F-35A variant. The U.K. pilots will take academic courses for about six weeks before they go on their first flights.  In addition to the two pilots, 12 aircraft maintainers, two supervisors and their families moved from the United Kingdom to the area to join the Marines and learn about the F-35.  In 2014 this group, along with another pilot and 50-odd more maintainers, are set to head to Edwards Air Force Base in California to stand up their own United Kingdom squadron to test the plane for combat use.  While at Eglin, wing commander Jon Millington, who heads the U.K. group, said he and his men effectively are operating as Marines.  “I told them, ‘You are part of that Marine squad. Embrace it. Enjoy it. You won’t have a chance to be a Marine again,’ ”Millington said.  Buchler said being embedded with the Marine Corps is different than the Royal Navy. He has been taking part in squad runs and has noticed the Marines require much more physical training time, which he said is a good thing. “It’s going to get my fitness back into shape,” he said. He was honored to become a temporary part of the force. “Just to be around the guys, it’s great,” Buchler said. “They’ve bent over backwards to make us feel that we’re Marines, too.” The United Kingdom has had a hand — and money invested — in the development of the F-35 from the beginning.    “The F-35 would not be here today if it wasn’t for the U.K.,” said Marine Col. Art Tomassetti.  He said the United Kingdom has the most knowledge on Earth about short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities, which the F-35B variant has. The U.K. has purchased three of the planes, two of which already are at Eglin. The third is expected in February. For now, those planes are added to the Marine fleet of 11 F-35Bs. The three planes are expected to be flown to the U.K. by 2018. Millington said the community has been extremely supportive of his men and their families, including the 21 children who were brought to live here while the team trains. Most have settled in Bluewater Bay, he said.  Royal Air Force Capt. Steven Grant, who graduated from his weapons maintenance course Monday, relocated his wife and 3-year-old son from northern Scotland.  He said it was “a bit of a different climate” in Florida. The family arrived in September when it still was warm enough to go to the beach. “It’s been very hectic since we got here, but everybody’s been really helpful,” he said. “Everybody we spoke to, they realized who we are. They seemed to know we were coming before we were even here.” He said many locals invited the families to their homes for Thanksgiving.  Tomassetti said the Marines, the United Kingdom’s Navy and Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force have formed a uniquely qualified team with wide-ranging experience to work through initial test phases with the F-35. “Other than the fact that people are wearing slightly different clothes, it would seem that everybody’s a part of one big operation,” he said.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Great job Okaloosa County for looking to the future in job growth and recognition of the Fort Walton Beach/Okaloosa Island area.

Lease approved for Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge
315-4438 | @KariBnwfdn 
OKALOOSA ISLAND — The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge will pay Okaloosa County $1 a year to lease 3.6 acres of the old Island Golf Center property. County commissioners approved the 10-year lease in mid-October. It gives the refuge two years to start building its medical clinic, education center and marine center.“Our founder years ago had pinpointed that piece of property as their dream for where the refuge would end up,” refuge Director Amanda Wilkerson said. “It’s perfect for us because it’s centrally located in our coverage area.”The refuge is finalizing design and construction plans for the clinic and education center. Wilkerson hopes to have a development order in hand within in the next 45 to 120 days.“I’ve been with the refuge since 2000, and we’ve been waiting for this since then,” she said. “I’m definitely excited.” The medical clinic — where the staff will rehab injured and sick animals — will be about 4,000 square feet. “It’s going to be a lot different from what we’re normally used to because it’s going to be an interactive building,” Wilkerson said. “Our ICU, nursery, exam rooms and surgery center are all going to be viewable by one-way glass. There will be an intercom system so people can actually communicate with people on the inside and see what’s going on.” Speakers will allow workers to explain to visitors outside the room exactly what they’re doing to an animal. That setup is designed to educate the public about the service the refuge provides. “Until people really see a heron that has been maimed by fishing line and the procedures it takes to get that animal back on its feet, they have no idea,” Wilkerson said. “Then it becomes more serious to them.” She said the refuge is “working on potential financing” for the clinic, which could open by late 2013. The proposed education center will house the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Academy of Zoological Sciences, a charter school that initially will serve sixth- and seventhgrade students. “As soon as the building is done, we’re ready to go,” Wilkerson said. “If the funding that we need … comes through, that will open the fall of 2013.” The refuge also plans to build a marine center that will be used for stranded marine life, research and necropsies. The 3.6-acre site sits on 35 acres of the old golf course. The land includes a heron rookery, a pine and oak hammock, coastal dunes, drainage ponds and several acres of wetlands. “The property is beautiful,” Wilkerson said. “It has a lot of educational benefits … with its different kinds of habitats.” County commissioners agreed in June to allow Destin nonprofit AquaGreen to build a $20 million fish hatchery on 4.4 acres of the property and Destin-based Dominion Capital to build Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone on 2.8 acres there. Wilkerson said she is confident the three groups can co-exist while also preserving natural areas for visitors. “We’ve already talked about different ways we can partner with each other,” she said. “I think it’s going to strengthen all of our organizations by being there.” The refuge plans to kick off a campaign in December to raise money to build the clinic and other facilities.  For more information, go to  or call Amanda Wilkerson at 650-1880.