TUSKEGEE, Alabama – Italian ambassador Armando Varricchio and Leonardo DRS Chief Executive William Lynn III on Monday visited the historic home of the Tuskegee Airmen, where the aerospace company wants to manufacture the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation trainer aircraft.
If Leonardo’s T-100 jet trainer is selected by the Air Force, the company plans to build a manufacturing facility at Moton Field, where the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen trained before being deployed to Italy in World War II. The project will create 750 direct jobs in Tuskegee.
Ambassador Varricchio said he was impressed by the community’s eagerness to see the T-100 project become a reality.
“I can tell you that is my first visit here, but it will not be my last,” he said during a lunch with community leaders. “I will spare no effort because we want Tuskegee to be not just a place of memory but a place of the future.
“Let’s move ahead,” he added. “Let’s work together.”
With an Air Force decision expected in the summer, Lynn said Leonardo DRS is prepared to launch the T-100 program quickly once the aircraft is selected. The Leonardo trainer is already being used by the air forces of Israel, Poland, Singapore and Italy, and it’s complemented by a sophisticated, integrated ground-based simulation system.
“It would create jobs all across the U.S,” Lynn said. “The engines would be built in Arizona. The training simulators would be built in Florida. We have suppliers in almost every state, so it would be thousands of jobs.”
Last November, Leonardo officials told an Alabama delegation visiting the company’s Italian manufacturing plant that preparations for the Tuskegee facility were on track.
After their Tuskegee visit, Varricchio and Lynn and a Leonardo team traveled to Montgomery for talks with Governor Kay Ivey and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, followed by a dinner.
“He’s getting to see firsthand that Alabama is open to business,” Governor Ivey told a WSFA television reporter.
Secretary Canfield has called the T-100 project a “gamechanger” for Tuskegee and Macon County.
Ambassador Varricchio said he sees the Leonardo project as a way to “connect the dots that are linking Italy and the United States.”
While in Tuskegee, the ambassador toured a museum dedicated the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were based at an airfield in Ramitelli during their stay in Italy.
“I was very moved walking around in the beautiful museum that was retracing the memory of those heroes, those brave men who are not forgotten in Italy,” he said. “What they did when they came to Italy, during those difficult times, that was the moment that bonds were created – and those bonds are more present that ever.”
Read an AL.com account of the ambassador’s Alabama visit.
By Jerry Underwood, Made In Alabama