Michigan lawmakers who have been advocating for F-35As to be based in state received a loud statement of support from the commander in chief Jan. 30.
President Donald Trump said his administration is giving “strong consideration” to the prospect of basing new Joint Strike Fighters at Selfridge Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Harrison Township during a Thursday evening rally in Warren, Mich.
The base could host “a lot of very fast planes” in the future, he told the crowd. The base is home to the 127th Wing, which operates KC-135 Stratotankers which provide global aerial refueling capability in support of Air Mobility Command, as well as the A-10 Thunderbolt II in support of Air Combat Command.
Michigan has been vying for F-35s to come to Selfridge ANGB for several years and lawmakers have seen a renewed opportunity to lobby for the state in recent months.
In December 2017, then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson identified two bases as preferred alternative locations for the Air National Guard’s next F-35 operational bases: Truax Field ANGB in Madison, Wisc. and Dannelly Field, Ala. Selfridge was identified at the time as a “reasonable” alternative site, but not preferred, according to an Air Force release at the time.
However, despite support from Wisconsin lawmakers, the possibility of basing Joint Strike Fighters at Truax Field has proven controversial, according to multiple local reports.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) issued a Friday statement noting that he spoke that day with Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett to continue lobbying for F-35s to be based at Selfridge.
“We discussed the current status of the F-35 basing process, including that Selfridge is currently undergoing an environmental review along with the preferred bases as a possible host,” Peter said. “I will continue working with the Secretary on this issue and pressing the Air Force and President Trump to follow through on bringing the F-35 to Selfridge.” Peters is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and is ranking member of the SASC Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee.
The Jan. 31 conversation follows multiple discussions Peters has instigated with defense officials on behalf of Selfridge, Peters noted. In November 2019, he joined 13 Michigan congressional members in penning a letter to Barrett following news that the citizens of Madison, Wisc., had issued multiple concerns about basing the F-35 squadron at Truax Field with regard to an increase in noise exposure and other living-related issues.
Peters and the members of Congress note that Selfridge’s 127th Wing would be well-suited to absorb new F-35s with minimal cost or facility increases.
“The future F-35 mission has the support of the Michigan Congressional Delegation, state and local leaders and the Macomb County community,” the letter said. “The citizens living around Selfridge ANGB have hosted military airfield operations for 100 years and look forward to welcoming future active duty airmen and their families when an active association for the F-35 is established.”
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former CIA analyst and acting assistant secretary of defense, said Thursday evening that although she does not see “eye to eye” with the president on many things, she did support his push to bring the Joint Strike Fighter to Selfridge.
“Michigan has the right facilities, capabilities, and workforce to house the F-35, which would bring good-paying jobs to our state,” she said via Twitter.
Once the two bases are selected, the Air Force expects F-35s to begin arriving in 2023.