Montgomery lands Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission

F-35 Joint strike fighter
F-35 Joint Strike Fighte [Photo Credit: AAP Image | Lockheed Martin, Matthew Short]

For over two years, unit commanders, community and state leaders, local business leaders, and Alabama’s congressional delegation have worked together to bring the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Ala. On Thursday all of their efforts paid off when the U.S. Air Force announced Montgomery landed the coveted mission.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson made the announcement that the Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing was chosen as the home for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet mission.

“I am thrilled and very pleased that the 187th Fighter Wing has been chosen as the home for the new F-35 fighter jet,” Governor Kay Ivey said of the news. “This announcement is huge for the River Region, it is huge for Alabama and is certainly a welcome gift for us as we approach Christmas. The decision to send the F-35 to Montgomery is a testament to the quality of our people and our workforce, and further cements Alabama’s reputation as the leading aerospace state in the nation.”

The F-35 is the military’s latest fighting machine and will eventually replace many Cold War-era fighter planes, which are currently in use. The 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard currently includes a squadron of F-16 fighter jets, a combat communications group, an RC-26 reconnaissance aircraft squadron, and an eagle vision unit. The 187th was one of five Air National Guard units on the short list to receive the F-35.

“The Alabama Air National Guard is dedicated to excellence in protecting both our state and nation,” Alabama Adjutant General Sheryl Gordon commented. “We look forward to adding the F-35 to our slate of tools available to enable us to carry out our mission.”

“Today is a historic day for Alabama and the River Region,” added Alabama 2nd District U.S. Rep. Martha Roby who worked to bring the project to her District. “I could not be prouder of the men and women of the 187th for how they demonstrated their capability to carry out this special mission. There’s no question that our community’s firm support for our military installations and units made a big impression on decision makers. With today’s announcement, we know this unique unit has a very bright future with the F-35.”

The F-35 decision builds on the long and proud history of the 187th Guard Unit which is also home to the historic Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Fighters. As a result of the decision, the City of Montgomery and the River Region will receive approximately $3 billion in new capital investment and $70 million in new construction.

Alabama 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, who also represents part of Montgomery in Congress, joined Roby in celebrating the decision with her District.

“What amazing news! I am thrilled that our district’s t Unit will become the first home in the Southeast to F-35 fighter jets,” said Sewell. “I am so proud of the unit commanders, federal, local and state leaders, and all those in Montgomery and the River Region community for working together to win the F-35 competition. The F-35 builds on the legacy of military excellence exhibited by the 187th Fighter Wing, which is home to the famed ‘Red Tails.’”

Ala. Sen. Richard Shelby agreed, and said he looks forward to seeing the success of this new project.

“This announcement by the Air Force is excellent news for our state and a true testament to Alabama’s work in the defense sector,” said Shelby. “The strong support of the community, along with the proximity of Dannelly Field to several other major military bases, saving both time and money, led Air Force Secretary Wilson to choose Montgomery for the new F-35A fighter jet program. I am extremely proud of the operational strength of the 187th Fighter Wing, and I look forward to seeing the success of this new undertaking.”

Once production is concluded, the 187th Fighter Wing will receive the F-35 as a replacement of the F-16. The delivery of the F-35 fighter jets is slated for 2023.