MADISON (WKOW) -- The 115th Fighter Wing based at Madison's Truax Field was selected as one of two preferred candidate bases to receive F-35A fighter jets as part of a new mission, according to an announcement by Gov. Scott Walker.
That means that the Air Force believes that Truax Field is a top choice to house the F-35A Lightning II. Truax Field will be officially chose as long as it passes an environment analysis and site assessment to be completed by the Air Force this Winter.
The Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Alabama was the other preferred candidate announced today by the U.S. Air Force.
“Selecting Truax Field and Dannelly Field will increase Air National Guard F-35A units providing fifth Generation airpower around the world,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson was quoted as saying in a news release. “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.”
F-35As will eventually replace many of the fourth generation Air Force aircraft. However, the Air Force will continue to fly a mix of 5th and 4th generation fighters into the 2040s, in order to maintain enough fighters to meet combatant commander requirements, provide required training and allow a reasonable deployment tempo for the force.
“Putting F-35s at these two Air National Guard bases continues our transition into the next generation of air superiority,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “It helps ensure we can always offer the Commander-in-Chief air power options and be ready to penetrate any enemy air defenses, hold any target at risk and go when and where the president tells us to go. We're the options guys. The F-35 is critical to the family of systems we need to accomplish this mission for the nation now and in the future."
At this time, the Air Force expects the F-35As to begin arriving at Truax Field in early 2023 and at Dannelly Field later that year.
"The 750 Guard members and the over 400 employees of the facility are valued members of our community and I am delighted that their employment future is secure," Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in a statement. "I thank the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce for their leadership in this campaign as well as the Badger Air Community Council (BACC), the Truax family, other community leaders, and residents who have shown support for this effort."
These locations remain preferred alternatives until the secretary of the Air Force makes the final basing decisions after the requisite environmental analysis is complete.
The Air Force will now conduct an official environmental impact analysis and site assessment of each of the five finalist bases in the coming weeks. Once completed, a formal Environmental Impact Statement will be published and a formal Record of Decision announcing a final basing decision will be released by Air Force officials.
The Air Force will ultimately select two Air National Guard bases as future homes of the F-35A.
There will be a press conference on the development at Truax Field tonight at 3:55 p.m. We will have more on the announcement on 27 News at 5 and 6.