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Alabama, Wisconsin named as locations for F-35A stealth fighter squadron

Florida National Guard's 125th Fighter Wing was competing for project

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, bottom, flies next to an F-16 Fighting Falcon, after an unveiling celebration at Luke Air Force Base for the delivery of the first F-35A fighter jet in March 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, bottom, flies next to an F-16 Fighting Falcon, after an unveiling celebration at Luke Air Force Base for the delivery of the first F-35A fighter jet in March 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) (Associated Press)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – National Guard units in Alabama and Wisconsin have been selected as homes for new F-35A fighter squadrons, the U.S. Air Force announced Thursday.

Air Force officials said Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin and Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama, are the preferred locations for the squadrons. Both sites must go through an environmental analysis before the selection is finalized.

"This is a huge announcement in the life of the river region and the great state of Alabama and I am honored to share it with each of you today," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said during a Thursday news conference announcing the selection.

Alabama and Montgomery officials had sought the project during the lengthy selection process to preserve 1,400 jobs at the airfield and add more jobs with the arrival of the new fighters.

The Air Force said it expects the F-35s to begin arriving in both states in 2023 -- first in Wisconsin and then in Alabama.

"Selecting Truax Field and Dannelly Field will increase Air National Guard F-35A units providing 5th Generation airpower around the world," Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement.

"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 aircraft will become part of the Montgomery-based 187th Fighter Wing.  The unit carries the name of the "Red Tails" in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-African-American unit that trained in nearby Tuskegee and shattered aviation and racial barriers in World War II.

Alabama and Wisconsin beat out locations in Idaho, Florida, and Michigan that were also competing for the project.

The director of Public Affairs for the Florida National Guard issued the following statement on F-35 basing decision announcement:

Earlier today, we were notified that the Florida National Guard's 125th Fighter Wing was not selected to be the next home of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. While not the decision we were hoping for, we are confident that the Air Force did what was right for the long-term strength and security of our nation. 

"Although we were not selected, our forces are more relevant than ever before. Our 125th Fighter Wing remains strategically located to provide a capable defense against current and emerging threats. Our F-15 fighter jets sustain an unmatched win/loss ratio in air-to-air combat, and their advanced radar system will continue to provide capabilities beyond that of other homeland defense aircraft. Furthermore, a Department of Defense modernization plan is in development, and these upgrades will ensure that our current fleet of F-15 aircraft remain an unmatched Air Dominance platform far into the 2030s and beyond.

"Moving forward, the men and women of your Florida National Guard will maintain their focus on excellence and their commitment to protecting our citizens both at home and abroad. Thank you for your continued faith in us, and for making our state the best place in the nation to wear the uniform."