By: Mike Dougherty for VTDigger, Sept. 13, 2019
The first two F-35s in the Vermont Air National Guard’s new fleet of fighter jets are scheduled to arrive in Burlington by next Friday. But a coalition of protesters who have fought the basing for years continues to press the military to change its mind.
NBC5 first reported that Guard pilots expect to bring the jets to Vermont by next Friday. Their arrival follows more than a year of messaging from Guard and Pentagon officials reaffirming the F-35 mission for Vermont’s 158th Fighter Wing.
In 2018, city councils in Burlington, South Burlington and Winooski all voted for resolutions that requested the Air Force substitute a quieter plane. F-35 opponents have long voiced concerns over the safety and noise effects of the new jet.
But military officials have consistently refuted that an alternative aircraft was an option. In May 2018, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Sen. Patrick Leahy that it would be “highly likely” that the Guard would lose its flying mission if it didn’t receive F-35s.
That’s left opponents with fewer options in attempting to impact the military’s plans. With the arrival of the jets looming, they’ve organized new protests and staged a series of sit-ins at Sen. Leahy’s office, working to draw attention to his role in the basing decision. But those efforts have not led to any changes from the military so far.
On this week’s podcast, Jasper Craven discusses why last year’s vote in Burlington — and the protests since then — haven’t moved the Guard to change course.