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Air Force In Evaluation Phase Ahead Of Selecting New Homes For F-35A Fighter

US Air Force Secretary Says She's Heard From Paul Ryan About Getting Fighter Planes To Wisconsin

F-35A Lightning II
Samuel King Jr. (CC BY-NC-ND)

The U.S. Air Force Secretary says she has heard interest from at least one high-level Wisconsin lawmaker in getting fighter planes to Wisconsin’s National Guard base in Madison.

“Paul Ryan called me this last week, and I know he’s very interested, as are the Guard here, in having that unit in Wisconsin,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told WPR earlier this week at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Fly-In in Oshkosh.

Wisconsin is one of five bases in the running to house the F-35A fighters at Truax Field. An Air Force team is inspecting the bases to evaluate if they have the ability to house the planes. The team is also determining cost estimates, logistics, how hosting the planes would impact other missions and personnel requirements at each potential base, Wilson said.

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Two bases will be chosen later this year or early next year to host two F-35A fighter planes, Wilson said. She described the plans as the “next generation” fighter for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Wilson, who was appointed in May, said she’s taking a hands off approach at this point in the process.

“I intentionally stay out of the analysis process because I want them to do the analysis, and we won’t put any thumbs on the scale to favor one location or another,” Wilson said.

Also in the running are: Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Alabama; Gowen Field Air National Guard base in Boise, Idaho; Jacksonville Air National Guard base in Jacksonville, Florida; and Selfridge Air National Guard base in Detroit, Michigan.

Wilson said the planes cost $100 million, and the prices will drop to around $80 million each once production ramps up.