Selfridge awaiting final word on F-35 fighter jets

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published October 26, 2017

 Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township is one of two U.S. bases that could house the new F-35 fighter jet. Selfridge is one of five bases being considered.

Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township is one of two U.S. bases that could house the new F-35 fighter jet. Selfridge is one of five bases being considered.

File photo

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Officials at Selfridge Air National Guard Base are still waiting to hear from the Department of Defense on whether the base will become one of two bases in the country to house a fleet of F-35 Lightning II fighter jets.

Brig. Gen. John Slocum, commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge, said he is anxiously waiting word, and anticipates it will be a positive outcome for the base.

“There are more deliberations going, and they are continually putting together more information,” Slocum said. “There is no timeline now, but hopefully they will have a decision by the end of the year.”

The U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force announced in late 2016 that Selfridge could be named one of two bases that could house the new F-35 fighter jet, a fifth-generation combat aircraft designed to perform ground attack and air superiority missions. Selfridge is one of five bases being considered, and the F-35 would eventually replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” by early 2020.

Over the summer, members of the U.S. Air Force and National Guard toured the Macomb County base to gather vital information needed to help them make their final decision.

Other bases under consideration include Truax Air Guard Station in Madison, Wisconsin; Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Jacksonville, Florida; Gowen Field Air Guard Station in Boise, Idaho; and Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Alabama.

If chosen, Selfridge would house 18 F-35s.

Slocum said he remains optimistic and confident in his belief that Selfridge is the obvious choice.

“My status is the same,” he said. “I think we’re looking very strong and we make a good argument.”

In addition to the base’s size and hangar capacity, what could also help Selfridge’s chances is a bill that was recently approved by the U.S. Senate. In September, the Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes Department of Defense fiscal year 2018 provisions written by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan. One of those provisions would give Selfridge flexibility to move its fleet of 21 A-10s to another base should they be chosen to host the F-35.

Peters is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The provision will next go before the Senate and the House of Representatives, followed by approval by the president.

Slocum said the public can get regular status updates about the F-35 from the All Systems Go website, MIF35.org, that was launched in February by an advocacy effort to garner statewide interest and support to help the base.

Slocum said the addition of the F-35 would help secure the posts of approximately 1,850 National Guard troops in the 127th Wing, which, he said, added more than $800 million to the local economy in 2014.