Governor to Pitch Palmdale for Jet Fighter

Gov. Gray Davis is expected to be in Palmdale today to announce the results of a study concluding that an Antelope Valley aerospace facility that helped build the B-2 bomber could be retooled to produce America's next-generation jet fighter more cheaply than facilities currently under consideration in Texas and Missouri.

The study, commissioned by the city of Palmdale and the state Trade and Commerce Agency, also found that locating the manufacture of the so-called joint strike fighter in the high desert city would create 10,000 jobs over the 20-year life of the project.

The Department of Defense is currently weighing which of two aerospace companies to award the joint strike contract. However, Lockheed Martin has indicated it would build the aircraft at its facility in Dallas if it gets the nod, while Boeing has said it's considering a plant in St. Louis.

The study, undertaken by SDS International Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based aerospace consulting firm, found that the Palmdale facility, currently leased by Northrop-Grumman from the Air Force, would be cheaper to retool because, among other factors, it already contains state-of-the-art equipment used to build the B-2, said Judy Turner, with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. Arrangements could be made for Boeing or Lockheed Martin to operate at the facility.

At today's news conference, Davis is expected to define how much the federal government could save if the project were located in Palmdale.

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