By Kelly Humphrey
April 23, 2016
The F-35 and its three variants (the Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C) have both ardent defenders and fierce critics in Congress, at the Pentagon, in the defense industry and on the Internet. Thousands of critics and conspiracy theorists have questioned the aircraft’s safety, effectiveness and cost.At first, it seemed as if that controversy might bypass Okaloosa County, where support for the military runs deep.
But not long after the recommendation to build the training center at Eglin was announced, Valparaiso Mayor Bruce Arnold and many city residents began to express concerns about the projected noise levels of the new aircraft.
With plans for dozens of daily takeoffs and landings from a nearby runway, Arnold feared the impact the noise would have on his citizens’ quality of life. The city sued the Air Force twice over the noise concerns.
Both lawsuits were eventually settled, and today Arnold maintains that his issue was never with Eglin, per se.
“Our concern was if the noise levels were too high, it would stop future development in the city, and would negatively impact our homeowners’ property values,” he said. “But that hasn’t turned out to be the case. It’s been noisy at times, but the current level of flights has been tolerable.”
Arnold said there’s no question in his mind that he did the right thing to question the Air Force’s plans, despite the enormous criticism he received from other local politicians and residents who feared the controversy would lead the Air Force to look elsewhere for a home for the program.
He dismisses those who say the subsequent reduction in the number of aircraft from the proposed 107 to less than half of that is directly connected to his city’s actions.
“That was purely a political decision based on available funding,” he insists.
The Base Realignment and Closure Committee (BRAC) recommended that up to 107 jets be stationed at the base, and a multi-million dollar training complex be constructed to serve students from the Navy, Marines and Air Force, as well as international pilots from eight allied countries.[FULL ARTICLE]