Defense contractors add PR to their bidding arsenal

FORT WORTH: Lockheed Martin and Boeing are going to war over who gets to build the next generation of fighter jets?and PR will be one of the doomsday weapons used by both combatants.

FORT WORTH: Lockheed Martin and Boeing are going to war over who gets to build the next generation of fighter jets?and PR will be one of the doomsday weapons used by both combatants.

The two aerospace and defense firms are simultaneously developing competing designs for a fighter plane that will be used by the US Air Force, Navy, and Marines; the UK's Royal Navy and Air Force; and military units in other countries.

What makes the arrangement unusual is that it will be nearly two years before either company is notified that they have been 'down selected' by the military to produce the 3,000 jets. With price tags of dollars 28 million to dollars 38 million each, much is on the line in the contract battle. To this end, both parties have put their PR forces on alert.

Carolyn Hodge has been named Lockheed Martin's communications manager for the project, and will lead the PR efforts surrounding the company's prototype Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Hodge fills a position specifically created to handle media and community relations as well as internal communications.

Lockheed, Boeing, and the military are pushing different messages regarding the JSF program. Boeing is keeping its cards close to its chest, claiming that information about its PR efforts are 'competition sensitive.' Mike Tull, PR manager for Boeing's JSF program, did admit the company hasn't hired any staff members or contracted with an agency.

Affordability is the main issue being addressed by the military, while Lockheed is stressing the JSF's importance to national security.

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