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Connecticut Aerospace Industry, Backers Tout F-35

Connecticut’s aerospace industry and its backers took a victory lap Monday, celebrating the state’s contribution to the joint strike fighter jet.

Lockheed Martin Corp., which makes the jet, set up an F-35 cockpit demonstrator at Spartan Aerospace LLC, a Manchester manufacturer, simulating the aircraft’s technology and how it performs in combat.

“It was really quite unbelievable,” Emily Lukowski, 17, of Hebron and a RHAM High School student who is bound for the U.S. Air Force Academy, said after simulating a takeoff, flight and a landing.

The simulator was the draw at Spartan Aerospace, which hosted executives from Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney to promote the industry.

The aerospace manufacturer, which employs about 100 workers, is a supplier to Pratt & Whitney, the East Hartford-based jet engine subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. The U.S. Defense Department announced last week a $2 billion contract for the 11th lot of F135 propulsion systems.

The military expects to boost production from 91 a year to 150 to 160 a year in the next two or three years, said Robert Rubino, deputy director of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program.

Manufacturing the fighter jet has a $31 billion economic impact nationally, he said, with Connecticut among the top five states. 

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