Production begins on South Carolina made fighter jets

Production begins on South Carolina made fighter jets
The South Carolina Department of Commerce estimates the aerospace industry has a yearly economic impact of $19 billion in the state. (Source: Jason Raven)

GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Commerce estimates the aerospace industry has a yearly economic impact of $19 billion in the state.

Governor Henry McMaster believes the industry has a bright future in the Palmetto State.

Tuesday, the Governor joined Lockheed Martin in welcoming Ambassador Shaikh Abdullah bin Rashed Al Khalifa from the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Ambassador Al Khalifa toured the F-16 Block 70's production line. Lockheed Martin is producing 16 fighter jets for the Bahraini Royal Air Force.

The first jets are expected to be shipped out in 2021.

McMaster said, "This is just one more example in how our state plays a big role in the prosperity of the country, strength of the country and the world. It's something to be proud of."

Lockheed Martin originally produced these planes in Fort Worth, Texas. But when demand picked back up worldwide for the F-16, they decided to produce new ones here in South Carolina. Officials said this is bringing hundreds of jobs to the state.

"We just have to stay ahead of the competition and make sure people have the training and education," McMaster said about the jobs.

The South Carolina Department of Commerce estimates there are 22,000 South Carolinians employed in the aerospace industry.

Gov. McMaster said developing a workforce for these aerospace jobs is crucial. "The kind of skills involved in this manufacturing process, all of those skills can be used in other endeavors."

In addition to Bahrain, the facility in Greenville will be producing F-16s for Bulgaria and Slovakia.

According to Lockheed Martin, there are about 3000 F-16s in service right now worldwide.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.