(October 24, 2017) The Air Force has put off until December an announcement of where it will next base F-35s, according to a newspaper in Michigan, which quoted officials at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, one of the five finalists for the fifth-generation fighter.
The Macomb Daily News in Michigan also said a group commander at the base told an audience last week that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson might have been unhappy with the current list.
Col. Shawn Holtz, the 127th Operations Group commander, said, “We don’t know exactly why, but there is a rumor out there the reason for [the delay] is because she asked, ‘Why are there only five? There should be more than that,’” he told the monthly Community Council meeting. “I remain rather optimistic. My crystal ball is broken, so I don’t know the answer, but I think we have a very good shot at the objective.”
The other finalists announced by the Air Force in December are Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Alabama; Gowen Field Air Guard Station in Boise, Idaho; Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Florida; and Truax Air Guard Station in Madison, Wisconsin. Currently, the only Air Guard base identified as a future home for the fighter is Burlington, Vermont, which is scheduled to receive the fighter in 2019. Two other bases are to be selected.
Holtz suggested that politics might play a role in the decision and mentioned that Truax Air Guard Station is the district of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the speaker of the House. And, he said, if that base is chosen, that would lessen the chance for Selfridge to be picked because both are bases in cold-weather regions.
“There is word out there that we are considered a northern-tier base, and it has me a little concerned,” Holtz said. “But again, there were discussions on how you can’t just put them all in the South. And, by the way, Alaska has [an] F-35 base going in.”