Florida Air National Guard Disappointed With F-35 Decision

Dec 9, 2013

Despite public support, the latest and greatest fighter jets in the nation's air arsenal will not be stationed in Jacksonville.

The U.S. Air Force has chosen Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont as the first Air National Guard base to receive new state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets. Utah's Hill Air Force Base will also receive the planes.

The Florida Air National Guard base at Jacksonville International Airport had also been in the running.

"We're disappointed that the decision was not to base the F-35's in Jacksonville," said Lt. Col. James Evan, director of communications for the Florida National Guard.

A prototype F-35 fighter jet.
Credit U.S. Air Force

Evans said the Florida Air National Guard's mission would remain unchanged by the announcement, describing how the air superiority mission of the F-15 aircraft stationed in Jacksonville would remain viable for at least another 22 years.

"We know that we had really good opportunities for the F-35 and public support," he said of the decision.

"Burlington Air Guard Station was selected because it presents the best mix of infrastructure, airspace and overall cost to the Air Force," said Timothy Bridges, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, in a release on the decision.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said major basing decisions are reserved for the Secretary of the Air Force and made after, "close analysis of operational and mission considerations, costs, installation attributes and environmental factors."

"Burlington's current infrastructure is the most economical choice resulting in the lowest implementation costs of all the candidates considered," she said, adding that no additional Air Force "manpower positions" will be required to base the planes there.

The first F-35As are scheduled to arrive in 2020. The jets have been tested in missions flown from Eglin Air Force Base outside of Valparaiso, Fla.

You can follow Patrick Donges on Twitter at @patrickhdonges.