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Macon County expects word on Air Force project within weeks

Advocates trying to land a major U.S. Air Force contract in Macon County should know in a matter of weeks whether it's coming.

Moton Field, home of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, is one of the sites in contention for an assembly plant for the next Air Force jet fighter trainer.

Leonardo DRS, an affiliate of an Italian company that builds jet fighter trainers for several of America's allies, is one of the bidders for the project and chose Macon County as the plant site if it wins the contract.

Joe Turnham, director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority, said Leonardo DRS and the other bidders have submitted all their information to the decision-makers at the Department of Defense and the Air Force.

"Our friends at Leonardo DRS and our counterparts at the state, everyone feels like there could be a decision anywhere from around Labor Day forward, but certainly within the next several weeks," Turnham said.

Capt. Hope R. Cronin, a public affairs officer for Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, said she could not comment on the project except to say that an announcement is expected before the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.

Officials first announced last year that Leonardo DRS was bidding for the contract and that the company had chosen Moton Field as its site.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said today that Leonardo DRS remains very much in contention for the project.

Leonardo DRS has stiff competition. Other bidders include Lockheed Martin, which is working with Korean Airspace Industries on the project, and Boeing, which is working with Saab.

The winner is expected to build at least 350 jet fighter trainers to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon, which the Air Force has used for decades.

Leonardo DRS has proposed building a new version of a jet fighter trainer it already supplies for Italy, Israel, Poland and Singapore. The company has dubbed the American version the T-100.

The project would bring 750 direct jobs to Macon County plus many more spinoff jobs to the area, Turnham said. Investment would be in the billions and would pump new economic life into the area and along the Interstate 85 corridor, Turnham said.

"This could be the accelerator that we need to do a lot of different things," Turnham said.

By Mike Cason

Contact us

Joe Turnham
608 Dibble Street, Suite 7
Tuskegee, AL 36083