Alabama picked for new F-35A fighter squadron

Published 8:35 pm Thursday, December 21, 2017

MONTGOMERY (AP) — National Guard units in Alabama and Wisconsin have been selected as homes for new F-35A fighter squadrons, the U.S. Air Force announced Thursday.

Air Force officials said Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin and Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama, are the preferred locations for the squadrons. Both sites must go through an environmental analysis before the selection is finalized.

“This is a huge announcement in the life of the river region and the great state of Alabama and I am honored to share it with each of you today,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said during a Thursday news conference announcing the selection.

Alabama and Montgomery officials had sought the project during the lengthy selection process to preserve 1,400 jobs at the airfield and add more jobs with the arrival of the new fighters.

The Air Force said it expects the F-35s to begin arriving in both states in 2023 — first in Wisconsin and then in Alabama.

“Selecting Truax Field and Dannelly Field will increase Air National Guard F-35A units providing 5th Generation airpower around the world,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement.

“As F-35As arrive at these locations, we will use the existing aircraft at these fields to replace the aging F-16s at other Air National Guard units.”

The aircraft will become part of the Montgomery-based 187th Fighter Wing. The unit carries the name of the “Red Tails” in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-African-American unit that trained in nearby Tuskegee and shattered aviation and racial barriers in World War II.

Alabama and Wisconsin beat out locations in Idaho, Florida, and Michigan that were also competing for the project.