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 An artist’s rendering of the F-35 Lightning II was displayed during a Feb. 21, 2017, press conference to announce the original effort to get the air fighter to Selfridge.

An artist’s rendering of the F-35 Lightning II was displayed during a Feb. 21, 2017, press conference to announce the original effort to get the air fighter to Selfridge.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Lawmakers urge new Air Force secretary to select Selfridge for F-35s

Decision expected in February

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published December 5, 2019


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Michigan’s congressional delegation members continue advocating for the F-35 mission at Selfridge.

On Nov. 25, a letter was sent from 14 lawmakers, members of the Michigan congressional delegation, to Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, urging her to select Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township as one of the locations to host the Air National Guard’s next F-35A operational base.

This comes two years after the Harrison Township base wasn’t selected to house the F-35s. If the 127th Wing is selected, 18 F-35A aircraft would be based at the installation to replace 18 A-10s currently at the base.

Barrett took over as secretary in October.

In the letter, lawmakers highlight the airmen, modern facilities, unique training range and low cost of conversion that make the 127th Wing an ideal choice.

They believe the 127th Wing has a number of core advantages, citing awards like the previous holder of the Spaatz Trophy, awarded to the best flying organization in the Air National Guard, and the Meritorious Unit Award. Selfridge is only the third Air National Guard wing in history to be recognized as such for “outstanding devotion and exceptional performance.”

Additionally, lawmakers pointed to recent developments of community opposition to hosting the F-35A mission at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison, Wisconsin — one of the Air Force’s two designated preferred locations. The other preferred location is the 187th Wing at Montgomery Regional Airport in Montgomery, Alabama.

The Air Force will make a final decision on which two locations will host the Air National Guard’s next F-35A operational bases following the completion of the final Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. An EIS timeline indicates that a final EIS will be published in January, with a decision coming in February.

“We understand that last month, the city of Madison submitted a letter with 22 pages of public comments, tasking the Air Force with 25 questions to be resolved in the final EIS and requesting that if those questions are not satisfactorily answered, you, as secretary of the Air Force, reconsider listing Truax Field as a preferred location,” the letter states.

In October, the Madison Common Council passed a resolution raising the community’s substantial concerns with basing the F-35A mission at Truax Field.

The letter states, “Macomb County, Michigan’s residents and elected officials welcome a potential F-35 mission and have consistently offered community support to Selfridge and its tenants. Selfridge offers the capabilities and facilities ideally suited to sustain F-35 operations.”

Lawmakers who sent the letter to Barrett are U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and U.S. Reps. Paul Mitchell, Fred Upton, Jack Bergman, Tim Walberg, Bill Huizenga, John Moolenaar, Andy Levin, Dan Kildee, Elissa Slotkin, Brenda Lawrence, Haley Stevens and Debbie Dingell.

“Every year the Michigan National Guard hosts Operation Northern Strike, bringing together over 5,000 service members from over 20 states and allies for a joint exercise,” the letter states. “This is the only accredited reserve component joint training in the United States.

“We are proud of the men and women serving in the Michigan National Guard, and of our state’s contribution to our nation’s defense.”

The letter concludes that the future F-35 mission has the support of the Michigan congressional delegation, state and local leaders, and the Macomb County community.

If Selfridge is selected, Brig. Gen. Rolf Mammen, commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge, said that by 2024, the F-35s would fly up to 6,746 operations a year, compared to 5,098 currently flown with the A-10s. If Selfridge is not selected, the A-10s would remain for the foreseeable future.