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Ohio voters favor cancelling jet fighter

Concern over deficits driving opposition to F-35.

In a sign that Ohio voters are willing to restrain defense spending to reduce the deficit, nearly 60 percent of registered voters in the state favor cancelling the advanced F-35 jet fighter, a new independent survey shows.

The online poll of 520 registered voters in Ohio concludes that 54.6 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats would rather get rid of the fighter and “upgrade current fighters instead,” yielding a savings to taxpayers of $97 billion by the year 2037.

Although Ohio voters in the survey support the development of a new long-range bomber to replace the B-2 and B-1 and 56 percent oppose reducing the size of the Navy’s fleet of fast-attack nuclear submarines, they seemed particularly hostile to the F-35, which relies on stealth technology to be invulnerable to enemy air defense systems.

The results of the survey, conducted by the University of Maryland and released by the non-partisan organization Voice of the People, indicate that Ohio voters are less interested in major increases in defense spending, as called for by Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, who wants to spend an extra $100 billion on defense during the next decade.

“People are concerned about the deficits,” said Steve Kull, president of the University of Maryland’s program for public consultation and who directed the poll.

Kull said “it’s not that” Ohio voters want to cut defense to “spend this money somewhere else. They are resistant to the idea that we need to spend more. The deficit is a strong consideration.”

The United States joined seven other nations, including Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Italy, Norway and Denmark, to produce the F-35. The price tag to develop, design and build the 2,443 jets is $391.1 billion. Israel, Japan and South Korea are expected to buy a number of the jets. The U.S. Air Force alone would like to buy more than 1,700 to replace the F-16 and A-10 combat jets.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is home to an F-35 System Program Office with about 125 employees. It handles Air Force technical issues with the weapons system.

Although the jet has been plagued by a variety of technological glitches, the F-35 and the Air Force’s stealth F-22 are regarded as the two most advanced fighter jets in the world.

“The F-35 is essential to maintain air dominance through mid-century,” said Loren Thompson, chief executive officer of the Lexington Institute, a non-profit defense organization in suburban Washington. “It wasn’t really designed to deal with today’s threats as to the threats we will face over the next 30 years.”

The United States has developed three different models for use by the Air Force, Army and Marines, including one version that would be launched vertically, like the old British Harrier. The Marine version is currently in service.

But Thompson said it “is impossible to upgrade any of our Cold War fighters that would be a survivable as a stealth plane. That is the biggest single appeal of the F-35 is that most enemy radars simply can’t see it. You can’t shoot down what you can’t see.”

The poll was conducted in Ohio and seven other states — California, Florida, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. The survey was in the field from Dec. 20 of last year until Feb. 1 this year. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

Staff Writer Barrie Barber contributed to this report.

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