By Mike Cason, Alabama.com (Birmingham news)
March 30, 2017 -- Moton Field in Macon County, home of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, is a potential production site for a new U.S. Air Force jet fighter trainer, officials announced today.
Leonardo DRS, an Italian company, would build the T-100 jet at Moton if it wins the contract, creating 750 direct jobs and an initial net investment of $200 million to $250 milliion, officials said.
The company would build 350 of the jets over an estimated 20 years. The jet would replace a 50-year-old trainer jet now in use.
Gov. Robert Bentley joined officials from Tuskegee, Tuskegee University and Macon County as well as state lawmakers and officials from Leonardo DRS at an announcement today at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.
William Lynn, chief executive officer for Leonardo DRS, said Boeing, Lockheed and Sierra Nevada are also competing for the contract.
Lynn said Leonard DRS presented its proposal to the Air Force today and he expects a decision by the end of the year.
State and local incentives would be a little more than $100 million, including tax abatements, credits and grants, said Joe Turnham, a Macon County economic development consultant involved in the project.
Leonardo DRS has built the T-100 for Italy, Israel, Poland and Singapore.
Under the proposal, Leonardo would lease a new facility to be built at Moton Field by a public-private partnership formed in Macon County, according to the governor's office.
Workers at the plant would assemble the aircraft and conduct research and testing.
Lynn said the Leonardo facility would be almost 1 million square feet. That would generate construction jobs in addition to the manufacturing jobs.
Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, said if Leonardo DRS lands the project it would be the biggest economic boost in Macon County history.
"I think we have the workforce here," Beasley said. "I think we have a good education system, Tuskegee University, working with Auburn University. It's kind of a regional thing. The tie-in of the Tuskegee Airmen, the historic perspective of that, it makes it very meaningful."
The governor and other speakers took note of the setting for today's announcement, reminding attendees of the Tuskegee Airmen, the ground-breaking African-American pilots and crew members of World War II.
"I'm struck by rich history here at Moton Field," Lynn said. "We stand here on the shoulders of heroes.
"The Tuskegee Airmen broke through countless barriers as they risked their lives to defend our nation during the most fragile hour."
Bentley said, "This will be a great honor not only for Tuskegee and Macon County, but it will be a great honor for America when this airplane right here is produced in Macon County, right here at Moton Field, and we can honor these men right here."
CAE USA, based in Tampa, would support Leonardo in development of a comprehensive T-100 ground-based training system, the governor's office said. CAE provides a training program to U.S. Army fixed-wing pilots at a high-tech $70 million center that opened recently at the Dothan Regional Airport.
Honeywell Aerospace would provide the jet engines for the T-100 from its Arizona assembly plant.