By Mike Dougherty
May 17 2018
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Thursday that the Vermont Air National Guard would likely be grounded if F-35s are not based at the Burlington Air Guard Station.
During questioning by Sen. Patrick Leahy at a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, the Air Force head told lawmakers, “If the F-35s don’t go to Vermont, the F-16s will eventually age out, and it’s highly likely that Vermont will no longer have a flying mission for its Guard.”
Opponents to the F-35 basing have raised concerns over the environmental effects of stationing the fleet of fighter jets in Vermont’s most populous city.
In public statements and court filings, opposition groups, including Save Our Skies VT, have suggested that the Air Force could assign alternative aircraft to the Guard. VTANG officials have contended that there is no other mission being planned for the Green Mountain Boys.
Wilson’s comment Thursday appears to be the first public statement clarifying the position of the Air Force.
While opponents have proposed that cargo planes like the C-130 would be viable alternatives for the Vermont Air Guard, the secretary’s statement indicates that fighter planes are the squadron’s only aircraft option.
Her statement largely reflects prior wording about the continued use of the squadron’s current F-16 fleet. The Air Force’s 2013 Environmental Impact Statement stated, “If there is no F-35 beddown at Burlington Air Guard Station, the current mission would continue.”[FULL ARTICLE]