Wendy Rogers: F­35 Fighter Program Vital to National Defense

By Wendy Rogers, Lt Col USAF (ret)

Wendy RogersHorrific terror attacks on America and our NATO allies in recent weeks should serve as powerful reminders of the importance of maintaining our country’s edge in matters of national defense.  As a career Air Force pilot who flew worldwide airlift and humanitarian missions, I understand firsthand the importance of ensuring our military is equipped with the absolute best technology we have to offer.

That is why, as a nation, it is critical we reaffirm our support to maintain full funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. America’s air superiority remains critical, not only to protect our brave men and women overseas, but to effectively fight enemies like ISIS – a terror threat which is metastasizing.

As ISIS spreads globally, the battlefield continues to change, too. We’re fighting a new kind of war, one that will likely be redefined time and again throughout the 21st Century.

America must innovate and upgrade our defense capabilities to have a meaningful impact in the Middle East and elsewhere. The fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet is quite simply the platform of future, representing the culmination of years of cutting-edge innovation, research, and development.

F35AZBut how does it take the fight to ISIS which relies on improvised weapons, social media, and religious extremism? ISIS doesn’t have jets, after all.

Never underestimate our enemy’s reach, even if its technology, military presence, and tactics are completely different from ours. The versatility and unmatched situational awareness of the F-35 makes it integral to fighting ISIS’s asymmetric threat.  The F-35’s ground-breaking communications systems also allow for better coordinated missions with our allies who have invested in the program. The F-35’s interoperability between the US and our NATO counterparts enables us to instantly adjust strategies to respond to unexpected, real-time changes on the ground, giving us greater flexibility and control.  Moreover, the F-35’s maneuverability and advanced missile detection systems safeguard our pilots from anti-aircraft fire for a distinct advantage.

In fact, Lt. Gen. Bogdan of the United States Air Force testified before Congress that “the combination of the F-35 being able to go where no other airplanes can go and its ability to see the battlespace in clarity, creates an advantage for the United States that is critical in future air dominance.”

We owe it to our brave men and women in uniform to provide the safest and most technologically advanced weaponry available. As the world’s greatest military force, we must continue to evolve to meet new types of threats that will no doubt emerge in the coming years and decades. The F-35 program is more than capable of helping us to accomplish both of these feats.

As a career Air Force pilot, I can say the F-35 is exactly what this country needs to not just keep up with – but to effectively combat – the threats we face on a global scale. I’ve been behind the program from the beginning as the vast majority of Arizona elected officials have been.

We must continue supporting the F-35 program in order to reap the benefits it will provide for decades to come.  Anything less will be needlessly wasting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen our armed forces to keep America safe and secure.

Lt Col Wendy Rogers and her husband are small business owners living in Flagstaff, serving communities in northern, eastern and southern Arizona.

Wendy Rogers: Arizona Needs & Supports the F-35

Wendy RogersBack in November, the East Valley Tribune and Ahwatukee Foothill News published an op-ed that I wrote in support of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In that op-ed, I noted the critical importance the F-35 program plays to the national security of the United States. After meeting with Arizonians who are involved in the F-35’s development, I learned of their concern over program cuts and the unforeseen consequences that may result from debate over program reductions. For the sake of our national and economic security, these conversations need to stop.

The F-35 is America’s next fifth-generation, multi-role fighter that our military leaders have designated to replace our military’s current arsenal of ageing F-16 and F-18 fighters. The F-35 is a pragmatic approach to modernizing America’s air superiority by using the same platform to serve the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The highly advanced capabilities of the F-35 will provide out troops in the air, sea and land with the technology and situational awareness to get the job done and safely return home.

A recent program update proves that 2011 was a banner year for the program. Of the 872 test flights and 6,622 test points the F-35 was to endure in 2011, the program surpassed those goals by flying 972 test flights and completing 7,823 test points. These flights and test points ensure that the plane is strong and reliable through hundreds of challenging scenarios. The results prove that the F-35 program is maturing faster than anticipated – which is a good problem to have when working with advanced military technology.

Despite these overachievements, we have seen a lot of change in America’s political landscape. Most significantly, the deficit reducing “supercommittee” failed, forcing $600 billion in mandatory cuts from Department of Defense programs. During negotiations leading up to the supercommittee, there was a groundswell of support for full program funding and members of the committee were prepared to defend the F-35 because they recognized it’s importance to America.

Unfortunately, because the committee failed, the program is once again under debate. As evidence, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently confirmed that he aims to cut Defense Department spending on next generation weapons programs which could include the F-35. While no one believes that the F-35 will be cancelled, small businesses right here in Arizona are watching closely to see if the Pentagon will uphold their commitment to program funding, since the small business community has capitalized their production lines in anticipation of program growth.

The bottom-line is that we cannot allow political expedience to dampen the progress of the F-35. The program is deeply connected to our economy and cuts would send ripple effects across a nation. The programs suppliers, consisting of 1,300 independent companies across the United States and supporting 127,000 jobs, have the most to lose. If those parts are no longer needed in the quantities that were originally requested, then those suppliers will be unable to meet payroll and the rising jobless claim rates in the United States will see a significant uptick.

The security of our nation and the protection of our troops are important to all of us. It is our job to ensure that the men and women in the armed services are armed with globally superior technology and protection. America’s ingenuity and industrial infrastructure can deliver that superiority, and we Americans can make sure that the program and our troops are fully supported. The F-35 is not just a budget line item. It is a line item that represents real people and business, and we need to let our elected officials in Washington know that we support the F-35.

Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers, USAF (retired) was one of the first 100 women pilots in today’s Air Force. In 2010, she ran and narrowly lost a bid for the Arizona State Senate in Democrat-leaning Legislative District 17. She owns and operates a Tempe-based office complex as well as a home inspection business with 10 fulltime employees operating in four counties. Lt Col Rogers and her retired Air Force husband have two adult ASU-grad children and live in Arizona’s brand new Congressional District 9.