BUSINESS & ECONOMIC DEV.
Lockheed, maker of the ‘Hercules,’
eyes next generation of fighter jets
2022 | FACTBOOK 71
By Aleks Gilbert
Marietta’s claim to national fame is likely the Big Chicken
at the intersection of Roswell Road and Cobb Parkway. No
less important, however, are Dobbins Air Reserve Base and
Lockheed Martin — “centerpieces of our national defense
system,” in the words of one lawmaker.
Lockheed’s Marietta plant employs some 5,000 engineers,
software engineers and managers, and churns out some of
the longest-tenured airplanes within the U.S. Air Force fleet.
When lawmakers fret about Dobbins’ closure — the military
has a reputation for closing bases with little notice or reason
— they worry it would cost Cobb Lockheed, too, and with it,
one of the county’s economic engines.
When Rod McLean, general manager of Lockheed’s Marietta
plant, took over in 2019, he called it a “national asset.”
“We have unique facilities on Air Force Plant Six that
don’t exist anywhere in the world,” he said at the time. “(For
instance), we still fly F-22s back here on a regular basis to do
some additional work. … That’s the only facility in the world
right now that’s operational for the F-22.”
But the Marietta plant couldn’t rest on its laurels, the newly
appointed general manager added.
“Marietta is ideally suited to produce in quantity, larger
quantity, some of the new development programs that are in
early stages of development,” he said, “but we still have work
to do to ensure that we are affordable and positioned well to
bring the business here.”
This year, state lawmakers passed legislation that may have
a big impact on that front.
Tucked in a wide-ranging bill addressing Georgia’s tax
incentives are several pages that, put simply, will make Lockheed
Martin more competitive when it bids in the coming
years for rights to build the next generation of fighter jets for
the Department of Defense.
Former state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta — who left the
General Assembly this year to take a position at the Georgia
Institute of Technology — said it may become the most significant
piece of legislation he will have authored in his seven
years as a member of the Georgia Legislature.
The Department of Defense will soon look for companies
to build three “new prototype fighter jets,” Reeves said during
a post-session tour of community groups this spring.
“It’s going to be the future of military defense aviation,” he
said. “We want Lockheed in Georgia to be able to bid and
win these contracts. And Georgia will be the epicenter of
military aviation for the whole entire country if we can land
Lockheed spokesperson Rob Fuller praised the bill.
“We applaud the passage of SB 6, an important new
Lockheed Martin’s Marietta plant will produce at least 24 of the
C-130J aircraft for bases around the United States, with more
planes possibly deploying to the Air National Guard Base in
Savannah. - photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell