MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker announced today at a press conference that the Air Force selected the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing to receive the F-35A Lightning II.
The 115th is expected to begin receiving F-35A Lightning fighter jets at Truax Field in early 2023, pending the results of an environmental impact analysis.
“This is outstanding news for the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “I commend the Air Force’s decision to select Truax Air National Guard Station as the next home for the F-35A Lightning II and the vital mission that the U.S. Air Force’s most advanced fighter aircraft will perform. The Air Force recognized Truax’s unrivaled capabilities, meeting or exceeding all the necessary requirements for the mission, and the broad community support for the Wisconsin Air National Guard from the State of Wisconsin, the City of Madison and Dane County in making their announcement.”
The Air Force announced Thursday (Dec. 21) that Truax Field was one of two preferred locations for the next two Air National Guard F-35A bases. Dannelly Field in Alabama, the other preferred Air National Guard base announced, would also receive F-35As in 2023.
“Our close proximity to one of the premiere airspace and range training complexes in the nation, our strategic location here in Madison, along with strong community support we knew were all factors that would play in our favor,” said. Brig. Gen. Gary Ebben, the Wisconsin National Guard’s deputy adjutant general for Air. “Perhaps most important though is the incredible Airmen of the 115th Fighter Wing. They have established a legacy of performance that has been just simply exceptional over many years, and I would say, even decades. Their professionalism, and their steadfast service to both our state and country is really second to none, and it’s not by chance that the motto of the 115th Fighter Wing is ‘Dedicated to Excellence.’”
The Secretary of the Air Force will make a final basing decision after the required environmental analysis is complete. That process, which includes opportunities for public input, could take as long as two years to complete.
“Selecting Truax Field and Dannelly Field will increase Air National Guard F-35A units providing 5th Generation airpower around the world, said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. “As F-35As arrive at these locations, we will use the existing aircraft at these fields to replace the aging F-16s at other Air National Guard units.”
The Air Force plans to continue using 4th and 5th generation fighters into the 2040s in order to maintain enough fighters to meet combatant commander requirements, training requirements and to allow a reasonable deployment tempo for the force.
“Putting F-35As at these two Air National Guard bases continues our transition into the next generation of air superiority,” said Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein. “It helps ensure we can always offer the commander-in-chief air power options and be ready to penetrate any enemy air defenses, hold any target at risk, and go when and where the President tells us to go.”
The Wisconsin Air National Guard has operated F-16 Fighting Falcons at Truax Field since 1992, with the 128th Fighter Wing. In 1995 the 128th Fighter Wing became the 115th Fighter Wing. The 115th Fighter Wing received its first combat missions in 1996 and 1997, enforcing no-fly zones in Iraq. It has supported a homeland defense mission since Sept. 11, 2001, deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004, and to Iraq in 2006, 2008 and 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Most recently, the 115th Fighter Wing returned from a deployment to Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Adding the F-35 only bolsters the Wisconsin National Guard’s ability to fulfill its unique dual-mission as both the state’s first military responder in times of emergency and as a key component of the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. The Wisconsin National Guard continues to maintain an active role in both global security operations and domestic response missions.
In November, approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing returned to Madison from a deployment to Korea. Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 248th Aviation Support Battalion deployed to the Middle East in September, while aviators from Detachment 5 deployed to Afghanistan in November, and approximately 35 Soldiers from West Bend’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in November. More than 120 Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation remain deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. Approximately 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee are in the midst of deployments worldwide, and other Airmen from the 128th deployed earlier in the fall as well. Last spring, approximately 120 Soldiers from the 32nd Military Police Company returned from a deployment to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Over the past several months, the Wisconsin National Guard also deployed Soldiers and Airmen to Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist with hurricane recovery efforts, and Soldiers responded to flooding over the summer in Monroe County and Burlington, Wisconsin.