Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Alabama Considered for F-35 Aircraft

September 9, 2016
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

This past week I was pleased to have breakfast with Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein at an Air Force Caucus meeting in Washington. It was an informal visit, but I took the opportunity to brag on the great work our local Air Force and Air National Guard personnel are doing.

In particular I aimed to single out the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field and discuss the potential assignment of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to its unit in Montgomery. The 187th is one of 18 Air National Guard units nationwide currently under consideration to field the new F-35 aircraft. That list is expected to be culled to just six next week, and two National Guard units will ultimately be selected later this year. 

As you may know, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the Air Force’s long-anticipated stealth fighter that will eventually replace many Cold War-era aircraft, including the F-16 Falcons currently flown by the 187th.  The F-35’s next-generation capabilities will give American fighter pilots unquestioned supremacy in air combat situations anywhere on the globe. Air Force officials recently announced that the F-35A was initially capable of combat operations, meaning it can now be deployed to theaters of battle if needed. 

I believe the 187th Fighter Wing is a great candidate for the F-35 program. This is the military’s most cutting-edge war machine, so certainly the Air Force has a lot of specifications. As the selection process continues, I am eager to help make the case for why the 187th at Dannelly could be an ideal fit. 

The Montgomery-based 187th Fighter Wing has an impressive combat track record in recent conflicts and a uniquely proud history as the legacy unit of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. The unit’s aircraft still fly with special red markings to carry on the proud tradition of the “Red Tails” from World War II.

The 187th Fighter Wing has served with distinction during numerous deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently, the unit became the first Air National Guard wing to conduct a stand-alone six-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I was fortunate enough to see the 187th in-theater during one of my trips to Afghanistan, and I can tell you that their reputation in military circles is sterling. It is difficult to describe the sense of pride I felt seeing the distinctive “Red Tails” on the tarmac in Afghanistan and knowing this special Alabama unit was engaged in critical military missions. 

Fielding state-of-the-art F-35 aircraft would no doubt be a feather in the cap for the 187th Fighter Wing, the Montgomery area and our state as a whole. As the Air Force moves through its evaluation and selection process, I will continue to advocate for the 187th, and I appreciate the support and partnership of my fellow Alabama Congressional Delegation colleagues in this effort.