WASHINGTON, July 29 – Sens. Patrick Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I) and Rep. Peter Welch (D) announced today that the Secretary of the Air Force has selected the Vermont National Guard to be the first Air Guard unit to base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force announced that Burlington is one of two preferred choices for F-35 operations, along with Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah, and that Luke Air Force Base in Arizona is the top pick for training. Final basing decisions will be made later in the ongoing selection process. Under the current production schedule, the planes could begin arriving in Vermont in the 2018 federal fiscal year.
Last year the Air Force conducted a system-wide review of more than 200 locations before selecting Burlington and nine other bases as finalists for either the training or primary operations of the F-35. Today (Thursday), the Secretary of the Air Force further refined that list by announcing the bases that are expected to be the first to receive the Joint Strike Fighter.
Leahy said, “Just as cream rises to the top, the Vermont Air National Guard’s stellar tradition of quality and performance has carried Vermont to the top of this rarefied list. The Air Force’s rigorous review of personnel and facilities across the country has confirmed the Vermont Guard’s superb performance and capabilities.” Leahy chairs the Senate National Guard Caucus and is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has also asked the Air Force to provide him with information about the noise profile for the developmental F-35 engine and how the Air Force will work to minimize any potential increased engine noise during take off and landing.
Sanders said, “It is a sign of the great national respect and admiration for the Vermont National Guard that it was selected by the Air Force in a very competitive process.”
Welch said, “Today’s announcement speaks to the Vermont Air National Guard’s outstanding reputation and tradition of excellence. I hope that, as the process moves forward, all parties will work together in a collaborative manner to resolve outstanding concerns.”
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the next generation multi-purpose joint service aircraft that the Defense Department is testing for procurement for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. The Air Force version of the F-35 will serve multiple roles and will be the primary replacement for the F-16s and A-10s.
Burlington and the other locations selected to base the F-35 will now move forward with a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This review will examine the environmental impact of the basing plan including the noise profile of the engine and site surveys, and it will include additional public meetings. The results of the EIS reviews could impact the final Air Force basing decision in the future.