Jet Fighter Simulator Highlights Importance of This NH Business
MANCHESTER— A high-tech flight simulator was the center of attention at a Manchester tech manufacturer Thursday, brought in by an aerospace giant to provide an up close look at a local company's link to the military’s latest multi-mission jet.
Representatives of Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the military’s F-35 jet fighter/bomber, were joined by state officials and local business leaders to tout the capabilities of a Queen City company’s crew helmet components, part of a system that provides crucial “situation awareness” to pilots flying the plane.
Robert McCay, vice president of aircrew systems, at Gentex Corp. in Manchester said Thursday, “bringing the simulator here today is really to get that word out that we need our suppliers and our employees to see the magnitude of this program.”
Gentex makes components to helmet systems for aircraft teams and first responders that limit noise and integrate communication gear.
The simulator that team leader Lockheed brought to Gentex allowed people to sit in a mock F-35 cockpit, complete with full-scale controls and a wide video display. Visitors could activate controls while in the pilot’s seat and watch how the plane reacted on the video screens that simulated a pilot's canopy view, as well as on cockpit instuments.
The simulator was a key component of the morning’s event that featured remarks from Sen. Maggie Hassan and Bob Rubino, the deputy director of the Lockheed’s F-35 program.
Rubino said the F-35 Lightning II replaces several current military jets in several ways, using the example of a flip phone compared to an up-to-date smart phone to show technological upgrades.
“The next war is going to be won by who has the most information, and that’s what F-35 does,” said the former F-18 fighter pilot.
Each F-35 costs about $85 million. The jets feature advanced capabilities, including an increase in the amount of weapons each plane can carry and an increase in time the aircraft can spend per mission.
To enhance pilot capabilities, Gentex makes components that make up part of the $450,000 helmets the pilots wear.
“We cover the active noise reduction headset embedded in the helmet system,” McCay said. Evey pilot has a Gentex noise reduction headset to protect their hearing while they fly the aircraft” which he said can produce noise between 130 decibels and 140 decibels.
To put that level in perspective, loud concerts can produce sound levels about 120 decibels.
People also heard first-hand from principals involved in the Gentex/Lockheed project and how the program benefits New Hampshire and how the company provides services to the jet project
Rubino said, 55 suppliers in New Hampshire. “Over half of those are small businesses. That’s the type of people we want working on this airplane to bring this capability to our services.”
Eighty people work at Manchester’s Gentex facility.
As planned production of the plane ramps up, Rubino expected the activity to “create 3,500 direct and indirect jobs and half billion in economic impact."
There are currently over 240 F-35’s flying out of 12 bases worldwide, so far accumulating about 105,000 flight hours. Lockheed plans to deliver 66 more planes this year. In two years they hope to add over 150.
Lockheed's Rubino said he wants U.S. and allied pilots to have an “unfair advantage” in a fight. “That’s what F-35 provides, an unfair advantage,” he said, to “go in, execute their mission and come back safely. That’s why we’re building this airplane.”
Commending the Gentex workers, Sen. Maggie Hassan said, “investing in technology found in this aircraft is neccesary to counter the threats this nation faces today, and frankly the threats our nations’ going to face four years to come.”
Hassan said, "your work helps strengthen New Hampshire’s economy and keeps our nation safe, secure and free.”
McCay said, “bringing the simulator here today is really to get that word out that we need our suppliers and our employees to see the magnitude of this program.”