Hundreds of Lockheed Martin employees in Georgia who worked on the F-22 fighter jet program are having their jobs relocated to Fort Worth.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, maker of the F-22, the F-16 and the F-35 jets, expects to move about 560 salaried jobs from its Marietta, Ga., facility to the division's headquarters in Texas.
"Now we are at a stage of supporting the aircraft that are in the field and looking at opportunities to make improvements in the aircraft," Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said.
Lockheed Martin has been moving to cut costs in the face of expected reductions to the defense budget in Washington. The relocation effort is likely to save $250 million, Stout said.
"We started about two years ago to look at ways that we can do things more efficiently and more affordably," he said. "We felt consolidating our fighter aircraft here in Fort Worth was an opportunity to increase efficiency."
The Pentagon several years ago signaled the end of the $66 billion F-22 program to make way for production of the multi-service F-35 joint strike fighter. In May 2012, the final F-22 Raptor was delivered to the U.S. Air Force.
About 195 of the aircraft were produced, including eight test aircraft, Stout said. Each aircraft cost $147 million, he said. But although the production program has ended, Lockheed isn't about to abandon its business on the supersonic diamond-shaped jet, Stout said.
"Those F-22s are going to be in operation for 20 to 25 years and, during that time, they're going to need a lot of support," Stout said. "There's going to be improvements made in them.
"Electronic technology is going to change," he said. "There might be an opportunity to replace a system or capability on the F-22 with something faster and better."
In the past year, the military investigated an unexplained oxygen supply problem in the aircraft's cockpit after pilots complained of hypoxia. Stout said the issue has been resolved.
Marietta employees affected by the job relocation include engineers, schedulers and persons in administrative positions.
Hourly production employees are not affected, Stout said.
The F-22 Raptor was assembled in Marietta, but one-third of the construction, including the aircraft's center fuselage, was completed in Fort Worth. Lockheed has about 14,200 employees in west Fort Worth.
Marietta employees will be offered a relocation package and must decide by Jan. 7 whether to move. If they choose to stay in Georgia, Lockheed will determine whether they can fill other positions or will be laid off, Stout said.