January 17, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - The Montgomery Advertiser reported on Wednesday, the Air Force had released a list of locations that may become the home of the F-35. In this instance Montgomery was on that list
The F-35 Joint Force Strikes is still some way from becoming operational and won't be seen at any airfields anytime soon. If Montgomery's Dannelly Field is chosen then its likely to be another decade before the F-35 would land at this base.
"I'm glad we're on the list. It doesn't guarantee anything. It's still going to be very competitive," said Col. Jeff Smiley, commander of the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field.
"It's better to be on that list than not on," he said. "We're excited and honoured, and we're going to move forward and keep doing the job were doing."
Getting F-35s at Dannelly would mean more training for the pilots since the military's newest fighter has upgraded avionics, stealth properties and can carry different types of weapons, said fighter pilot Lt. Col. Will Sparrow, a member of the 100th FS
"It's the next generation of fighter jets. It's a quantum leap in technology," Sparrow said.
The F-35 is primarily an air-to-ground fighter, like the F-16, meaning its primary purpose is to take out ground targets. But a major difference between the F-16s being flown at Dannelly and the new F-35 is where the weapons are carried. The F-16 carries all of its payloads externally, but the F-35 stealth fighter carries payloads internally, which makes the plane fly better, Sparrow said.
Montgomery's air guard unit is in the process of adding additional F-16s to the 18 it currently has, and with them approximately 150 more active duty airmen. This all part of the BRAC
process which the Air Force is currently implementing.
Dannelly Field is one of several locations participating in the Air Force total force integration initiative. With the change in squadron designation from the 160th FS to the 100th FS also came a active-associate unit tag which integrates both active airmen with a Guard unit. This new unit is expected to be operational by 2010 and could be a crucial factor when it comes to the crunch time when deciding the location of the new F-35 squadrons.