By Katie Jickling
May 24, 2018
Citizen efforts to halt the arrival of the F-35 fighter jets appear to have come up short.
Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson confirmed this week that the planes are still on schedule to arrive at Burlington International Airport next year.
The letter dated May 22 from Wilson to Mayor Miro Weinberger came in response to a city council resolution that requested the Air Force find a new mission for the Vermont Air National Guard. The resolution also included a series of questions about the safety and noise of the planes.
The Air Force’s response? The basing is a done deal.
“This decision was finalized in 2013 after a 48-month review which assessed 205 locations and concluded that the Burlington International Airport was the best Air National Guard option,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Weinberger. “If that decision were to be reversed, the Vermont Air National Guard would likely lose their flying mission upon the retirement of the F-16s.”
With a decreased need for Air Force bases and aircraft since the Cold War, the letter continued, “competition to secure new missions is fierce.” Wilson estimated that the Air Force would make $100 million in capital expenditures in Vermont during the next five years, and would spend $50 million on salaries annually.
Gov. Phil Scott, along with Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation, support the F-35 basing in Burlington.
Citizen opponents have been fighting the jets for five years. They have filed a lawsuit against the Air Force — which was dismissed — held protests, and, most recently, gathered signatures to get the measure on the Town Meeting Day ballot.[FULL ARTICLE]