It’s official: The F-35 is coming to Alabama! After a multiyear selection process, the Alabama National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery has been chosen for the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson called me to inform me of the decision. I firmly believe Montgomery and the 187th are uniquely qualified to carry out this special mission.
This is a historic win for Alabama and the River Region. I could not be prouder of the men and women of the 187th for how they demonstrated their capability to take on such an important mission. The F-35 is the military’s most cutting-edge war machine that will eventually replace many Cold War-era fighters like the F-16 Falcons currently flown by the 187th. Landing this mission is a tremendous boost for the River Region community and the entire state. It could bring as many as 1,000 jobs, $70 million in up-front facility upgrades, and as much as $3 billion in capital investment in Montgomery. It also further enhances Alabama’s already significant military footprint.
Over the last few years, I’ve been working with a partnership of unit commanders, community and state leaders, local business leaders, and Alabama’s congressional delegation to bring the F-35 to Montgomery. A lot of hard work went into this process, and many thanks are in order. I’d like to thank Brig. Gen. Randy Efferson, Col. William Sparrow, Mayor Todd Strange, Governor Kay Ivey, my colleagues in the Alabama congressional delegation, and the F-35 Task Force for their incredible teamwork in showing the Air Force all our area has to offer. There’s no question that our community’s firm support for our military installations and units made a big impression on the key decision makers.
We anticipate that the first F-35s will arrive in Montgomery within five years, and we are expecting 18 aircraft. Before this happens, some improvements to Dannelly Field will be made, including the development of a simulator facility and modifications of existing infrastructure.
As the legacy unit for the Tuskegee Airmen “Red Tails,” the 187th Fighter Wing has an incredibly proud history. With this announcement, we know this unique unit has a very bright future with the F-35. I’m looking forward to hearing the sound of freedom roaring over the River Region soon. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating this fantastic news for our area.