Tuskegee, AL- Officials at Tuskegee University emphasized its continuing support today for the proposed Leonardo DRS T-100 jet trainer project, which, pending approval by the U.S. Air Force, would be located at nearby Moton Field. The announcement accompanies a new university-city partnership that will include increased collaboration on various areas of community infrastructure.
Dr. Lily D. McNair, the university’s recently appointed president, looks forward to the widespread collaboration that could arise through Leonardo DRS’ close proximity to campus.
“Having such a respected, world-class aviation company like Leonardo DRS just a few miles from Tuskegee University’s campus holds tremendous potential for our students and faculty,” McNair said. “It would be wonderful if our highly sought-after graduates could remain in the area, help strengthen the area’s economic development, and continue the great legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.”
The U.S. Air Force is expected to announce its decision in the next several weeks. Currently, the Air Force is considering Leonardo DRS and two other companies — Boeing and Lockheed Martin — for the jet trainer contract. If awarded the contract, Leonardo DRS would construct an advanced assembly center creating 750 high-wage, full-time jobs over a 10-year ramp-up period — with an anticipated total local investment exceeding $200 million to $250 million. An additional 4,000 additional supplier jobs throughout the I-85 corridor are expected.
Page noted that trustees and university leadership have met frequently with Leonardo DRS executives and regional economic development leaders since the T-100 project’s initial inception. He said historic Moton Field being the chosen assembly site for the jet trainer system would be incredible.
“A decision by the Air Force to locate the T-100 manufacturing facility in Tuskegee will lead to an economic development thrust for the City of Tuskegee and the entire region,” said John Page, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. “It’s exciting to know that the university will have a hand in guiding our region’s future. Our board is confident that, under the leadership of President McNair, Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood, and other local officials, the greater Tuskegee community will witness tremendous growth and new opportunities.”
Beyond the university’s support of the T-100 initiative, Tuskegee University and the City of Tuskegee have entered into agreements that outline a strengthened university-city partnership. Through several memorandums of understanding, this partnership will include increased university involvement in regional concerns such as workforce development, economic development, community infrastructure and city-wide aesthetics.
Tuskegee’s mayor, Tony Haygood, noted the partnership outlined in these agreements will begin by addressing some immediate, short-term concerns. The city and university will then will expand their focus of realizing and long-term goals that have the potential to enhance quality of life for residents and students alike.
“We in the City of Tuskegee are encouraged and very excited about the promise this heightened partnership with Tuskegee University holds,” Haygood explained. “This collaboration will strengthen our town-and-gown relationship — as well as better leverage each group’s expertise — as we prepare for growth and major improvements in our community.”
The partnership, Page said, will also extend Tuskegee University’s ongoing support of Moton Field and its infrastructure. Currently, the university owns more than 60 acres in and around the airport facility necessary to expand Moton Field, thereby making the T-100 project possible.
Leonardo’s twin-engine T-100 is currently being used to train pilots around the world to fly next-generation fighter aircraft. The trainer, based on the company’s proven M-346 aircraft, has been selected for this role by Italy, Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Poland.
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