By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, is making a final push to emphasize key advantages favoring Montgomery’s 187th Fighter Wing as the Air Force nears a decision on where to base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Roby is highlighting how cost and time effectiveness, proximity to other Air Force assets, and a smooth transition process make Montgomery the ideal choice for the next generation American strike/attack fighter.
“Montgomery and the 187th Fighter Wing offer the Air Force several key advantages for the F-35 mission as compared to other locations under consideration,” Roby said. “My role is to make sure the Air Force has all the information it needs, especially as it concerns strengths that help make our case.”
“We have the lowest cost and fastest timeline,” Roby said. “We have the closest proximity to other land and sky Air Force assets. The 187th Fighter Wing does not require the same mission complications other units do. And, our community and state support could not be stronger. I believe these advantages really set us apart as the ideal location for the F-35.”
This week, Roby followed up on her discussions in a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to detail these advantages on the record.
Among the specific items favoring Montgomery and the 187th Fighter Wing Roby claimed that Montgomery has the lowest cost and fastest timeline.
“Dannelly Field is the cheapest beddown ($19.2M) from both a near and long term perspective,” Roby wrote to Wilson. “The 187th has the ability to accept new aircraft on the fastest timeline. The facilities and the 187th need little work and their pilots can utilize excess F-35 simulator capacity at Eglin AFB (only 3 hours away), while awaiting construction of an organic simulator.”
Roby also touted Montgomery’s proximity to other Air Force assets. Roby referenced the Air Force’s site visit report that described the 187th as offering “superior joint training opportunities” because of its proximity to other Air Force assets, including joint tactical air controllers and special operations forces.
“Available assets in the local flying area include: F-15C, F-16CG, A-10, F-22, ADAIR (T-38), F-35, KC-135, AC-130, CV-22, and U-28 in the local area,” Roby said. “The ability of the F-35 to integrate with all these assets on a daily basis maximizes overall capability of the USAF.”
Roby also cited the lack of a Homeland Security alert mission. She said that unlike other units under consideration, the 187th Fighter Wing is not on call to scramble aircraft in the event of a domestic Homeland Security alert. Were the Air Force to select a unit that is currently tasked with the alert mission, another unit would need to be trained, equipped, and prepared to take on the alert mission, amounting to an “expensive force structure shift.”
Roby also cited the lack of a “double move” potential. Because other units under consideration fly A-10 and F-15 aircraft, which are set to remain active, sending the F-35 to those units would require the Air Force to find a new home for their current aircraft. The F-16 Falcons flown by the 187th Fighter Wing are scheduled for retirement and would not require the time and expense of redistribution.
She also claimed that Montgomery has community and state support. Roby emphasized how the state and local community are working together to support the potential F-35 mission through investments in the Montgomery Regional Airport and a tuition assistance program for Guardsmen.
The Air Force is expected to select two Air National Guard units for the F-35 mission in the coming weeks. The Montgomery-based 187th Fighter Wing is one of five locations on a short list of candidates to receive the mission.
Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.