The Air Force has selected Selfridge Air National Guard Base as one of five locations being considered for the F-35A Lightning, the nation’s newest fighter aircraft.
If selected, the F-35 would likely replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft now assigned to the base and flown by the 107th Fighter Squadron, Michigan Air National Guard.
“We are confident that we have made a very strong case that it is in the best interest of the nation to locate the F-35 at Selfridge,” said Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, the adjutant general of Michigan. “Given the infrastructure at Selfridge and at our northern Michigan training facilities in Alpena and Grayling, it just makes sense, both operationally and fiscally, to base the F-35 in Michigan.”
The Air Force announced the finalists for consideration for the F-35 basing after a comprehensive review of mission requirements (weather, airspace and training range availability), capacity (sufficient hanger and ramp space, and facility considerations), environmental requirements, and cost factors at bases across the country. A review team will visit the five bases, January through March, and submit its final recommendation this Spring.
“Given that the fighter operations building and munitions facility at Selfridge are both less than 10 years old and that adequate hangar space for fighter aircraft already exists at Selfridge, there is a strong case to be made that the base could quickly adapt to the new mission requirements with minimal costs,” said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, commander of the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing, which is the host unit at Selfridge.
“But our greatest assets are the skilled group of Airmen – pilots, maintainers and all the related support personnel – who have proven themselves to be among the best in the Air Force,” Slocum said, noting that in 2016 the 127th Wing was awarded the Carl A. Spaatz Trophy as the top flying unit in the Air National Guard, followed by an Air Force Meritorious Unit Award, signifying superior performance in combat operations.
“Our Airmen are truly building on a 100-year record of fighter aircraft excellence here at Selfridge,” he said. “We have the know-how and the necessary drive to be able to quickly adapt to and excel at the F-35 mission.”
If selected as a future F-35 base, the new aircraft likely would begin to arrive at Selfridge in 2022.
Fighter aircraft have a long history at Selfridge. The base opened in the early days of World War I, when fighter aircraft were still called “pursuit aeroplanes” and featured canvas-covered wings and propellers. Since that time, Selfridge Airmen have repeatedly risen to the challenge of adapting to the latest technology to take wing. That was perhaps best demonstrated during the last fighter aircraft transition, when the 127th Wing moved from flying F-16 Falcons to the current A-10s in 2009 and 2010.
“As we moved through that transition, we learned that we were going to be needed in Afghanistan earlier than originally planned,” said Maj. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, Jr., commander of the Michigan Air National Guard and a former F-16 pilot who was serving as the commander of the 127th Operations Group, overseeing the transition at the time. “Our people buckled down and became mission-ready six months ahead of schedule. We were able to deploy overseas and complete our mission thanks to a lot of hard work and focus. Many of those same Airmen continue to serve today in our fighter and maintenance squadrons. It gives me great pride, and great comfort, to know that they are eagerly awaiting this next challenge.”
More than 600 personnel, roughly 180 full-time positions and 450 part-time (traditional Guardsmen), are engaged in A-10 operations at Selfridge. It is expected that if the F-35 is located at the base that the local employment levels would remain mostly unchanged.
The 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, is the largest unit assigned to Selfridge. The wing flies the KC-135 Stratotanker, an air-to-air refueling platform, in addition to the A-10. In total, about 1,700 people are assigned to the 127th Wing.
The base as a whole includes about 1,700 full-time military and civilian employees and about 2,600 part-time military personnel in the National Guard or Reserve. The base generates nearly $1 billion annually in economic impact to the local community.
About the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Aircraft
The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter. It will replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s, which have been the primary fighter aircraft for more than 20 years. Additionally, it will bring an enhanced capability to survive in the advanced threat environment in which it was designed to operate. With its aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35A will provide next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the United States and allied nations.
-Primary Function: Multirole fighter
-Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin
-Power Plant: One Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbofan engine
-Thrust: 43,000 pounds
-Wingspan: 35 feet (10.7 meters)
-Length: 51 feet (15.7 meters)
-Height: 14 feet (4.38 meters)
-Maximum Takeoff Weight: 70,000 pound class
-Fuel Capacity: Internal: 18,498 pounds
-Payload: 18,000 pounds (8,160 kilograms)
-Speed: Mach 1.6 (~1,200 mph)
-Range: More than 1,350 miles with internal fuel (1,200+ nautical miles), unlimited with aerial refueling
-Ceiling: Above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
-Armament: Internal and external capability. Munitions carried vary based on mission requirements.