JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Air Force on Friday announced Friday it has awarded the Air National Guard base in Jacksonville with the next round of new jet fighters to replace its fleet of aging F-15Cs. An airbase in Portland, Oregon, also was awarded the new aircraft.
The first F-35s are expected to begin arriving in Jacksonville in 2024.
FANG and area politicians, including Jacksonville U.S. Rep. John Rutherford (R-Jacksonville), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and state Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville), had lobbied the Air Force for Jacksonville to be among the first airbases to receive the F-35s but missed out on the first round of locations for the latest generation of strike fighters.
Rep. John Rutherford (R-Florida) has been an advocate to the Department of Defense through three cycles of selections.
“I think the fact that Jacksonville has such a good reputation for supporting our military airmen and others that I think that’s a big reason as well,” Rutherford said. “[JAX] and the city of Jacksonville have done a fantastic job in maintaining that buffer around [JAX] where FANG is located, and that’s important for these jets as well.”
The Air Force will conduct on-the-ground site surveys at both bases to assess operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure and manpower, and costs before deciding which aircraft will replace the F-15C mission.
The Air Force also plans to replace the remaining Air National Guard operational F-15C/D bases (in Massachusetts, California and Lousiana) with either F-35As or F-15EXs.
“The Air National Guard has consistently stepped up to meet the challenges of countless national contingencies over recent years,” Maj Gen Mike Loh, director of the Air National Guard, said in a statement. “Transitioning to these new weapon systems will maintain our effectiveness as a member of the total air Force into the future.”