Northrop Grumman’s latest strike in the KC-X tanker propaganda war hit my email inbox today. The email contained a letter signed by five southern governors, and it was addressed to President George W. Bush.
The contents of the letter could be significant, despite its many inaccurate claims. The letter states:
“This particular procurement has a substantial relevance for states in the south.”
Okay, no argument there.
“For the first time in our nation’s history, a partnership of companies has decided to source, assemble and modify and aircraft for the United States Air Force in our region.”
Not so fast. Georgia has Lockheed Martin in Marietta and Gulfstream in Savannah. Texas has both Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Raytheon in McKinney, L-3 Communications in Waco and Greenville and American Eurocopter in Arlington. Mississippi has EADS and Eurocopter in Colombus and Northrop Grumman teamed up with Aurora Flight Sciences across the street. Florida has Northrop Grumman in Jacksonville and Melbourne, and Crestview Aerospace in Crestview, and is likely to attract both Embraer and L-3 to Jacksonville.
Did I mention Piper Aircraft in Vera Beach, Florida?
The south hasn’t exactly been ignored by Big Aerospace. Only southern California and the greater Seattle area can stake a richer historical claim to the aerospace industry than the former confederate south.
“The South has an emerging aerospace industry, but no individual state in our region has anything that remotely comapres to the breadth, depth and significance of the aerospace industry of the Pacific Northwest.”
Sure, Georgia and Texas don’t build half of the world’s annual output of airliners, but they do produce a huge and very, very influential share of the world’s fighters, airlifters and business jets.
“Once this production capacity is established in our region, a new aerospace corridor will form to support this work and thousands of jobs will be created across the southern United States.”
Even if Northrop Grumman wins the contract, the south’s annual industrial output will rise by whatever amount it takes to assemble a maximum of 15 aircraft, of which about 40% is sourced from overseas.
So why do the governors make such extravagant claims?
My only guess is that Airbus has much larger plans for manufacturing jets in the southern US states, and these five southern governors know it, or at least have their fingers-crossed. Other European aerospace manufacturers have moved wholesale production to the US over the last 10 years, so why couldn’t Airbus find more work for the south’s non-unionized labor force than just assembling tankers?
The letter is signed by Bob Riley, of Alabama; Haley Barbour, of Mississippi; Phil Bredesen, of Tennessee; Timothy Kaine, of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.