VT Air National Guard One Of 10 Finalists To Base F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

WASHINGTON -- Senator Patrick Leahy and the Vermont Congressional Delegation – Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Peter Welch (D) -- announced Thursday that the Secretary of the Air Force has selected the Vermont National Guard in Burlington as one of 10 final candidates to base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Air Force conducted a system-wide review of more than 200 locations before selecting Burlington and nine other bases as finalists for either the training or primary operations of the F-35.

Leahy said, “Vermont’s Guard has built a reputation for excellence, and once again it shows.   Making this elite list reflects the widespread confidence the Vermont Air Guard has earned for having the finest personnel and outstanding organization and facilities.  These bases will be where a lot of the action is when the F-35 arrives, and Vermont deserves to be in that category.”  Leahy chairs the Senate National Guard Caucus and is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Sanders said, "This is a tribute to the Vermont National Guard."

Welch said, "This announcement is a validation of the professionalism and commitment to excellence the men and women of the Vermont Air National Guard display every day. Vermonters already know they are the best at what they do, and this step in the selection process confirms that."

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the next generation multi-purpose joint service aircraft that the Defense Department is testing for procurement for the Air Force, Navy and Marines.  The Air Force version of the F-35 will serve multiple roles and will be the primary replacement aircraft for the F-16s and A-10s.  Over the past several months, the Air Force used a point-based scoring regimen to analyze more than 200 possible locations that might be suitable to base F-35s.  Five locations -- three active Air Force sites, and two National Guard sites -- were selected as final candidates for training bases.   Five other locations, three active Air Force sites and two National Guard sites, including Burlington, were selected as final candidates for operational bases.

The 10 final candidate bases will now each undergo a further review that will include an environmental analysis, site surveys and public meetings.  The Secretary of the Air Force intends to announce final selection of the preferred locations sometime in the spring of 2010.

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