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F-35 to officially call Montgomery home, Air Force says

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 8:43 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Dannelly Field in Montgomery has officially been selected as an Air National Guard F-35A Lightning II location, the Department of the Air Force announced Wednesday.

“The Department of the Air Force selected the 115th Fighter Wing and the 187th Fighter Wing as the next Air National Guard locations to receive the F-35A,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett. “Putting F-35s at these two bases continues our transition into the next generation of air superiority.”

The decision to place the jets at Dannelly Field is expected to create more than a thousand jobs in the River Region. The Air Force expects the F-35As to begin arriving in 2023.

“All the dollars that were connected to the construction and the move can now be released and formally allocated,” said Paul Hankins, chairman of the F-35 Task Force. “So it’s a big next step for us and it means we can go ahead and really begin to move on preparations for receiving the jets.”

The Air Force expects the F-35As to begin arriving in 2023.

Also selected as a location for the jets was Truax Field in Wisconsin. The Air Force said environmental analysis of each location began in early 2018.

In December 2017, Dannelly Field was announced as a finalist for the program, pending the EPA required environmental study. The National Guard held meetings for the public to voice concerns about the jets in Montgomery.

“We’ve been waiting with bated breath,” said Col. Edward Casey with the 187th. “The initial announcement came out over two years ago, and that environmental impact assessment process is about a two-year process, and we had to wait for that to conclude. It just took some time, it took a little bit more than two years, and meanwhile, we’re waiting figuratively with shovels in hand, waiting to stick shovels in the ground to get going on these projects, and we’ve had to be in kind of a standby mode.”

The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter. It will replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s, which have been the primary fighter aircraft for more than 20 years.

REACTION TO THE NEWS

Gov. Kay Ivey:

“After significant work, Montgomery, Alabama is officially going to be home to the F-35s. Our state not only has a rich history in flight, but we have longstanding support of our nation’s military and defense,” Governor Ivey said. “I am grateful to the secretary of the Air Force for recognizing what Alabama will continue to offer our military efforts. Most importantly, I am appreciative of the hard work our congressional delegation and the many people who have helped make this possible.”

Sen. Doug Jones:

“This morning Air Force Secretary Barrett called to let me know that she would be announcing the final decision to designate the 187th Fighter Wing (187 FW) at Dannelly Field, Montgomery Regional Airport as the 6th F-35 operational location.

“This is great news for the 187 FW’s mission capabilities and for the state as a whole. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter represents the cutting edge of military technology and will enhance the Wing’s opportunities to continue their outstanding record of contributions to our national security. From my position on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue to advocate for Congress to allocate the funds for the facilities needed to house and maintain these aircraft in time for their expected arrival in December of 2023.”

Sen. Richard Shelby:

Major General Sheryl E. Gordon, Adjutant General of the Alabama National Guard:

“We are thrilled that the waiting is over and we have received the final word that we will be the home of the F35, this decision continues the tradition of the Red Tails and Tuskegee Airman. I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce and County Commissioners for all their efforts and support. It is a great honor to be selected as the home of the most technologically advanced fighter in the Air Force inventory. We look forward to working with the Montgomery Airport Authority, the city of Montgomery and our State officials as we move ahead to prepare our facilities to accommodate the F35.”

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed:

“We applaud Secretary Barrett and Air Force leadership for choosing Montgomery and reaffirming its faith in the expertise of the men and women who make up the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field. As the legacy wing of the world-renowned Red Tails, our skilled service members only add to the strategic capabilities of the world’s most technologically advanced weapon. This confirmation strengthens Montgomery’s tactical assets and will allow new opportunities for economic growth. We thank all of our partners for their steadfast work in helping Montgomery land the Lightning.”

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