December 17, 2013 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Hill AFB was recently selected as the new home for the Air Force's first operational F-35A Lightning IIs. But, these jets are also set to patrol the skies of the Green Mountain State in the near future. The USAF announced their decision for operational basing of the F-35A at Burlington Air Guard Stationt, Vermont.
The new F-35s will replace the guard’s aging fleet of F-16s in 2020.
The Pentagon announced the basing decision Tuesday, making Burlington the first Air National Guard station to receive the planes. The new F-35s will replace the guard’s aging fleet of F-16s in 2020.
Burlington was originally one of 205 possible basing locations for the fighter jet. That number was reduced to six last year with the release of the draft Environmental Impact Statement. Air Force officials chose Burlington AGS after a lengthy analysis of multiple locations’ operational considerations, installation attributes, economic, and environmental factors.
“Burlington Air Guard Station (AGS) was selected because it presents the best mix of infrastructure, airspace and overall cost to the Air Force,” said Timothy Bridges, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations. “Burlington’s airspace and ranges can also support projected F-35A operational training requirements and offers joint training opportunities with F-15Cs from Barnes AGS, the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, and CF-18s stationed at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Quebec.”
Burlington AGS currently hosts the oldest version of the F-16 aircraft and this decision allows the Air Force to retire those aircraft. The Air Force also noted that no additional manpower will be required to fly the F-35s.
Another strength of Burlington AGS is the mature and highly successful active association with its current F-16s that will transition to the F-35As when they arrive.
Eglin Air Force Base in Florida's panhandle is currently the only home for the F-35.