The Air Force has signed off on a proposal to base an F-35 management program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a move that one expert said could benefit the military installation for decades to come.

Outgoing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed a decision that Wright-Patt will become the new home to the F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator Organization at the Air Force Life Cycle Managment Center.

“This is a major day for the base and the Dayton area,” said Loren Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute. “The F-35 will be the biggest weapons program in the world for at least the next three decades.”

The value of the Wright-Patt hosting the program amounts to “hundreds of billions of dollars” over the next several years, Thompson said.

Thousands of F-35 jets, Thompson said, will be operated by the Air Force, Marine Corps. and the United States’ allies. The F-35 is the country’s most expensive weapons system, with projected operating costs of more than $1 trillion, according to an April report from the Government Accountability Office.

“There is no Air Force program that Dayton could have been better off capturing in terms of value and importance, Thompson said.

The program could bring at least 400 jobs to the base, U.S. Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, announced last year. Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, praised Turner, Brown and Portman for their advocacy of the program’s move and support for Ohio’s military installations.

Turner led the Ohio congressional delegation over the past year in advocating to bring the F-35 program to Wright-Patt. Turner said Wednesday he was “glad the Air Force recognized the opportunity” at Wright-Patt.

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