U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, briefed constituents on her efforts to fund improvements to Montgomery County’s Dannelly Field so that the Alabama Air National Guard can receive the Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“Last Wednesday, I spoke on the House floor during consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill to raise awareness for the facility updates needed at Dannelly Field to support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission,” Congresswoman Roby said.
“The 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery was selected as a preferred location for the bed down of the F-35,” Rep. Roby said. “The first aircraft is scheduled to arrive in the next few years, and Dannelly Field needs a correctly sized and properly configured maintenance facility to support and repair the cutting-edge aircraft. The existing facilities that currently service the F-16 Red Tail’s squadron are inadequate, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on this issue as we continue through the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process.”
“The military installations in our district and across our great state perform vital work for the security of this nation, and I will always advocate for their proper support through my role in Congress,” Roby wrote. “It is a true honor to have this platform to fight for the men and women who serve us all.”
Roby said that the existing facilities that currently service the F-16 Red Tail’s squadron are inadequate. Aircraft maintenance is housed in three temporary trailer facilities, maintenance shops are 43 percent of the size needed for the F-35s so much so that presently the required tool storage is kept in aircraft parking spaces inside the hangar.
The Lockheed Martin F-35A is a fifth-generation fighter jet that combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Three variants of the F-35 will replace legacy fighters for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and 10 other countries around the world. According to the Air Force, the F-35A will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s.
The Pentagon estimates that the F-35 will remain in the U.S. inventory through 2077. It is the costliest weapon system in the history of the world, with an estimated total program cost of $1.196 billion over the expected six decades long life of the program. The Pentagon intends to eventually purchase 2,456 of the aircraft; but has cut the number of planes purchased by 17 to just 81 in fiscal year 2021. That move could delay the F-35’s arrival with the 187th.
The difficulty of maintaining and servicing the aircraft has been a criticism of the F-35.
President Donald J. Trump (R) has diverted some money that was intended by Congress for military construction projects to improvements in security on the southern border with Mexico.
The Alabama Air National Guard currently flies the venerable, though still effective, F-16.
To see video of Congresswoman Roby speaking on the House floor, click here.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.
(Original reporting by Time magazine contributed to this report.)