Jacksonville’s Air National Guard got another high-power endorsement Tuesday as the leaders of the base wait to hear if they’ve been selected as one of two locations for a new squadron of F-35 Lightning II fighters.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter to the secretary and chief of staff for the Air Force encouraging them to choose the 125th Fighter Wing at Jacksonville International Airport following a successful site survey in April.
“A recent Air Force site survey found — once again — that the Florida Air National Guard facilities at Jacksonville meet all published requirements for selection and provide the lowest cost alternative for the transition overall,” said the letter to Secretary Heather Wilson and Gen. David Goldfein.
Jacksonville missed out in 2013 when Burlington, Vt., was selected as the first National Guard post in the country to be awarded the F-35s. A similar site survey ahead of that selection found Jacksonville was the top choice, according to the Air Force.
There were originally 18 locations under consideration for the current selection process, but that number was cut to five spots in December. The Air Force is expected to select two locations out of Jacksonville; Montgomery, Ala.; Boise, Idaho; Selfridge, Mich., and Dane County, Wis.
Jacksonville’s wing currently houses a squadron of F-15 Eagles.
“Not only are Florida ANG facilities adequate for this transition, their operations, both domestic and deployed, are critical to the nation’s security and perfectly suited for the F-35 platform,” Nelson’s letter said.
Nelson said the F-35s provide air superiority and fifth-generation aircraft capabilities that will be required against adversaries in eastern Europe.
Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter endorsing a squadron of F-35s in Jacksonville to the secretary of defense Aug. 14, and the commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, sent a similar letter to the secretary of the Air Force in July.
“Florida ANG has been and remains ready to take on the F-35 transition,” Nelson said Tuesday.
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