The Department of the Air Force decided against assigning an F-35 foreign customer training school at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. A base in Arkansas was chosen instead.

The Department of the Air Force decided against assigning an F-35 foreign customer training school at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. A base in Arkansas was chosen instead.

Photo provided by United States Department of Defense

Selfridge passed up for F-35 training school

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published March 22, 2023

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — After nearly a year of research, study and consideration, the Department of the Air Force has decided against placing a new fighter mission at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Marked throughout the process as the second alternative for an F-35 Lightning II fighter jet training mission to help foreign pilots learn the new planes, Selfridge was turned down as the host base in favor of Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

“The 127th Wing, Selfridge ANGB, and our community were postured, capable and ready to take on this mission, and I thank everyone who supported us in this endeavor,” said  Brig. Gen. Rolf Mammen, commander of the 127th Wing. “We continue to stand ready to take on any mission the Air Force chooses to base here.”

The decision is the latest setback in getting the F-35 to the base, which is slated to replace the attack role currently held by A-10 jets like those stationed at the installation based in Harrison Township. An effort was made by Macomb County, communities throughout the county, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan’s congressional delegation to convince the Air Force to choose Selfridge over Ebbing, though Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says the decision ultimately came down to the preferences of the F-35 customer countries.

“In 2021, we had the Singaporeans here as well as the folks from Poland and the folks from Thailand,” Hackel said. “The conversations (while) showing them around, letting them know what this airspace is all about, talking about the facilities, talking about the surrounding areas, what we offered for their families and housing (and) educational opportunities. All these things were of interest to the folks making the final decision.”

While finding a replacement for the A-10 mission is a priority — the Cold War-era plane is expected to be removed from service at the end of the decade — the base’s KC-135 Stratotanker mission looks secure. A new fuel tank at the base gives Hackel hope for the base’s future.

“I think there is no question at the federal level,” Hackel said. “They recognize the importance of Selfridge as one of their key assets for our nation’s defense.”

Despite feeling the base’s future is secure, Hackel says steps will be taken to find out what made Arkansas a more suitable location for the Department of Defense than Selfridge, while searching for an A-10 replacement mission.

“In the meantime, you’ve got aggressive support on behalf of Gen. (Paul D.) Rodgers (the adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard), Gen. Mammen, who is the Selfridge base commander, and even the governor saying, ‘Hey, we understand the value of this for Michigan, but we also understand the value of this for national defense,’” Hackel said. “Everything is pushing in that direction to figure out if there was something that we fell short on, how do we alleviate that as being a concern and prepare for the next round of opportunities.”

According to its website, Selfridge Air National Guard Base is one of the oldest continuously operating military airfields in the nation. It opened in 1917 and houses missions for the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and National Guard.