Maine’s history of contributing to the defense of our country is a source of immense pride for our state, and we certainly punch above our weight in providing excellent products to help our warfighters preserve and protect our freedoms.

And a quick scan of headlines shows that America’s defenses continue to be under constant threat.

So I’m writing today to highlight the continued importance of one of the crown jewels of Maine’s defense production. Right here in my former Maine Senate district, hardworking Mainers build the F135 engine that propels the F-35 fighter.

That’s right – the most lethal aircraft ever created gets its juice in the great state of Maine, and that’s a source of great pride for us. We know how important the F135 engine is to our country’s ability to project force around the world, so we build it right.

Maine has a long, long legacy of defense production that is top-quality. You may have heard the phrase “Bath-built, best-built” used to describe destroyers built at Maine’s Bath Iron Works. Submarines overhauled at the southern tip of Maine in Kittery Naval Shipyard receive top-notch repair work before they re-submerge.

So we’ve established that Maine does defense right. And in the case of the F135 engine, here’s something else to know: the engine works. It’s online now.

It’s simple: Maine makes the engines, the engines get put in F-35s, and our pilots are able to carry out their mission.

So it’s concerning that reports indicate some are recommending that the Defense Department and Congress stop production of the F135 engine in order to create a brand new engine (through the so-called Adaptive Engine Transition Program) that would replace the current engine. Should these folks get their way, it would certainly hurt Maine. But more importantly, we would be diminishing America’s ability to win the battles that matter.

There are other reasons that the proposal to build an entirely new engine is a poor choice when compared to simply improving the current engine. I would suggest that the fact that we’re in a massive supply chain crisis indicates that starting a huge new manufacturing initiative would be a bad idea.

In addition, killing the current engine platform to start over would also be incredibly expensive. Also, the alternate engine platform wouldn’t work for all of the current F-35 needs. And not all of our service branches fly F-35s that would be compatible with the new engine.

Who wants to tell the Marines that they can’t have the most lethal version of the most lethal aircraft?

Of course, it’s critically important that we continue to improve our military’s capabilities. That’s why an approach that improves the current engine rather than creating a whole new engine makes sense. I promise you: As our threat picture evolves, Mainers can handle whatever improvements will need to happen to the current engine to keep the F-35s on top for a long time.

I also want to briefly thank Sen. Susan Collins for her effective efforts and clear understanding of the importance of this issue. She’s given the Mainers that build the F135 engine a chance to show what they’re capable of, and for that she should be recognized.

— Special to the Press Herald

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