Lockheed Martin plans to open facility in Fort Smith, employ up to 90

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 11,854 views 

F-35 fighter jet

Defense industry giant Lockheed Martin is the first known company with plans to locate a facility in Fort Smith to support the foreign pilot training center being established at Ebbing Air National Guard Base.

The Bethesda, Md.-based company has scheduled a “recruiting event” between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., April 16, at the Wyndham Fort Smith City Center in downtown Fort Smith. According to information from Lockheed, Keith Petrosky, director of Talent Acquisition with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, will host the event.

“Lockheed Martin continues to build its talent pipeline with interviews at a recruitment event for Ebbing ANGB,” the company noted.

According to Lockheed, the planned support site will employ up to 90 jobs that include aircraft and support systems, information tech, quality and safety support, and F-35 maintenance. The company manufactures the F-35 advanced fighter jet.

Ebbing, located adjacent to the Fort Smith Regional Airport, will be the next home for the 425th Fighter Squadron, a Republic of Singapore F-16 training unit now based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The pilot training center also is planned to support F-16 and F-35 fighter planes purchased by Singapore, Switzerland and other countries participating in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

The new facility will cost at least $765 million to become fully operational, according to initial estimates. Air Force officials have said the earliest planes and pilots from foreign nations could arrive at Ebbing would be in late 2024. The full complement of 12 F-16s and 24 F-35s from various nations could arrive in fiscal year 2026 at the earliest.

Received and approved federal funding for the new center totals more than $300 million – to include $207.947 million in a broad spending package approved by Congress on March 22 – since the U.S. Air Force finalized its decision in March 2023 to locate the center at Ebbing.

Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Lockheed will be one of several defense industry companies to locate operations in Fort Smith to support the foreign pilot training center.

“This is another big step forward in the evolution of the Foreign Military Sales Pilot Training Center. Companies like Lockheed Martin recognize the importance of sourcing skilled talent from communities where they’ll be positioned,” Allen said in a statement provided to Talk Business & Politics. “Certainly, this won’t be the last company connected to the F35 and broader military who looks to have a presence in the greater Fort Smith Region.”

The F-35’s first flight was in December 2006, and the advanced fighter jet was introduced to the U.S. Air Force in August 2016, the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2015, and the U.S. Navy in February 2019. Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, Poland, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are just some of the U.S. allies also operating the F-35.

Lockheed has global operations, including rocket production facilities in Camden, Ark., and employs approximately 116,000 people who work in the the “research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.” Lockheed’s revenue in 2023 totaled $67.571 billion, above the $65.984 billion in 2022. Net income in 2023 was $6.92 billion, above the $5.732 billion in 2022.