Montgomery Advertiser: Emphasizing low cost and community support, Roby makes push for F-35
As the Air Force nears a decision on where to base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., is making a final push to emphasize key advantages favoring Montgomery’s 187th Fighter Wing.
The wing was selected as one of the top five sites to be considered for the new F-35 Lightning II jet to replace their retiring aircraft.
The other four sites include Jacksonville, Florida; Gowen Field AGS, Boise, Idaho; Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Detroit; and Truax AGS, Madison, Wisconsin.
If Montgomery lands the F-35 program, the area would be home to the first F-35 combat unit in the Southeast, and about $3 billion in new capital investment, as well as about $70 million in new construction.
Roby highlights how cost and time effectiveness, proximity to other Air Force assets, and a smooth transition process make Montgomery the ideal choice.
A decision is expected to be made this fall.
“Montgomery and the 187th Fighter Wing offer the Air Force several key advantages for the F-35 mission as compared to other locations under consideration,” Roby said. “My role is to make sure the Air Force has all the information it needs, especially as it concerns strengths that help make our case.”
Roby said Montgomery has the lowest cost and fastest timeline.
“We have the closest proximity to other land and sky Air Force assets,” she said. “The 187th Fighter Wing does not require the same mission complications other units do. And, our community and state support could not be stronger. I believe these advantages really set us apart as the ideal location for the F-35.”
This week, Roby followed up on her discussions in a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to detail these advantages on the record.
Among the specific items favoring Montgomery and the 187th Fighter Wing Roby pointed out are:
Lowest cost and fastest timeline: Dannelly Field is the cheapest beddown ($19.2 million) from both a near and long term perspective. The 187th has the ability to accept new aircraft on the fastest timeline. The facilities and the 187th need little work and their pilots can utilize excess F-35 simulator capacity at Eglin AFB (only 3 hours away), while awaiting construction of an organic simulator.
Proximity to other Air Force assets: Roby referenced the Air Force’s site visit report that described the 187th as offering “superior joint training opportunities” because of its proximity to other Air Force assets, including joint tactical air controllers and special operations forces.
Available assets in the local flying area, she said, include: F-15C, F-16CG, A-10, F-22, ADAIR (T-38), F-35, KC-135, AC-130, CV-22 and U-28 in the local area. The ability of the F-35 to integrate with all these assets on a daily basis maximizes overall capability of the USAF, she said.
The lack of a Homeland Security alert mission: Unlike other units under consideration, Roby said the 187th Fighter Wing isn’t on call to scramble aircraft in the event of a domestic Homeland Security alert.
Were the Air Force to select a unit that is tasked with the alert mission, Roby stated, another unit would need to be trained, equipped and prepared to take on the alert mission, amounting to an “expensive force structure shift.”
The lack of a “double move” potential: Because other units under consideration fly A-10 and F-15 aircraft, which are set to remain active, sending the F-35 to those units would require the Air Force to find a new home for their current aircraft, Roby said. The F-16 Falcons flown by the 187th Fighter Wing are scheduled for retirement and wouldn’t require the time and expense of redistribution.
Community and state support: Roby emphasized how the state and local community are working together to support the potential F-35 mission through investments in the Montgomery Regional Airport and a tuition assistance program for Guardsmen.