By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, September 9, US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) announced that Alabama’s 187th Fighter Wing, better known as the “Red Tails”, is being considered to field the Air Force’s new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Congresswoman Roby said, “The 187th is one of several Air National Guard units nationwide currently under consideration to field the new F-35 aircraft. That list is expected to be culled soon, which is why I took the opportunity to brag on the 187th at a breakfast meeting this past week with the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.”
Rep. Roby said, “As you may know, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the Air Force’s long-anticipated stealth fighter that will eventually replace many Cold War-era aircraft, including the F-16 Falcons currently flown by the 187th. The F-35’s next-generation capabilities will give American fighter pilots unquestioned supremacy in air combat situations anywhere on the globe.”
The conservative congresswoman said, “I believe the 187th Fighter Wing is a great candidate for the F-35 program. This is the military’s most cutting-edge war machine, so certainly the Air Force has a lot of specifications.”
Rep. Roby said, “As the selection process continues, I am eager to help make the case for why the 187th at Dannelly Field could be an ideal fit.”
The 187th Fighter Wing is currently flying F-16 Fighting Falcons. The first F-16 flew in December 1973.
The 187th Fighter Wing traces its history to 1952 when the Alabama Air National Guard organized the 160th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Birmingham, then equipped with the propeller driven RF-51 Mustang. The squadron moved to Dannelly Field which is seven miles southwest of Montgomery in 1953. In 1955 the squadron was equipped with jets with the arrival of the RF-80. The next year the 160th transitioned to the RF-84 Thunderflash. The squadron was reorganized as the 187th Reconnaissance Group in 1962. In 1971, the Thunderflash was replaced by the RF-4C Phantom II. In 1982, the 187th changed missions from reconnaissance to the multi-purpose fighter role with the acquisition of the F-4D Phantom II. In October 1988, the Group converted to the F-16. In October 1995, the Group was designated a Wing under Air Force reorganization; becoming the 187th Fighter Wing.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II remains a highly controversial and expensive. The new generation of fighter combines the functions of several current aircraft types into one airframe. Variants of the F-35 are to be widely deployed by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, as well as by key allied partners. The F-35 is a single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighter. The F-35’s top speed is reportedly 1,199 mph, its projected range is 1,379 miles, its wing span is 35 feet, and the length is 51 feet. The plane is powered by the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. Recently, the US Air Force has received its 100th F-35 at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Hill Air Force Base in Utah is now also receiving F-35s.
Congresswoman Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.