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Fighter battle spreads to the heartland

Even America's heartland isn't safe from the battles between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The two titans have clashed in Washington, Mumbai, Tokyo and elsewhere, and now the list includes another world capital: Jefferson City, Mo.

House lawmakers there earlier this month approved a non-binding resolution calling on Congress to get completely behind the F-35 Lightning II. Specifically, the resolution said:

[T]he F-35 is critical to the modernization of our military because it will replace aging and obsolete aircraft and secure United States air superiority for the next generation; and WHEREAS, thousands of hard working, highly educated Missourians contribute to the success of Whiteman Air Force Base and the Marine Corp Mobilization Command; and WHEREAS, these Missourians depend on the economic impact of our military bases to support their jobs and thriving communities; and WHEREAS, the F-35 generates more than five hundred high technology, high paying jobs for Missouri; and WHEREAS, the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program already provides sustained economic impact to Missouri and its citizens of over thirty-five million dollars annually; and WHEREAS, the United States Congress is currently reviewing its commitment to the F-35 program and its full funding; and WHEREAS, the United States and its global partners have invested in the development of the F-35 for more than a decade; and WHEREAS, our military is currently testing the aircraft and we are on the verge of realizing the return on this long-term investment; and WHEREAS, to slow production would increase the marginal cost of each aircraft and curb the strategic security and economic benefits of the program
And so on -- it calls on Congress to back the F-35 1000 percent. But wait a second ... the F-35 is assembled in Texas ... doesn't Missouri have its own home-built fighter jet, too?

Oh yeah -- it's called the F/A-18 Hornet, and Boeing builds them in St. Louis. According to a local report, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill was not pleased that the state House apparently snubbed Big B:

McCaskill chastised the resolution, saying it was cost jobs at Boeing in St. Louis, where the current F/A-18 fighter jet is built. The two jets are competitors for military purchases. McCaskill rejected the notion that the F/A-18 was outdated and said the F-35, which cost roughly twice as much with a price tag in excess of $100 million, was an example of wasteful government spending. “It was an incredible slap in the face to thousands of workers at Boeing that somebody in Missouri would call (the F/A-18) aged and obsolete,” said McCaskill, who sits on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.
Per the story, she wasn't the only one:
Gov. Jay Nixon joined the Democratic senator in her condemnation, issuing a written statement in which he said the House Resolution was not the position of Missouri.
To be clear, the text of the House resolution available on its official site does not mention Boeing or the Hornet at all, nor does it call the Hornet "aged and obsolete," as McCaskill said. Still -- their absence from the House language was glaring.

What to make of this kerfuffle? Was Lockheed attempting a sneak attack? Is Boeing losing influence over its own home turf? Nah -- the probable explanation is that state lawmakers will just go along with a resolution that says almost anything.

UPDATE, Oct. 21: For the record, Missouri House lawmakers were somewhat stung by all the hometown criticism, so they passed another resolution endorsing Boeing and the F/A-18 -- just to be on the safe side.

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