–submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by John Bonsett-Veal
Will Madison be selected as one of two Air National Guard bases where the nation’s newest and most expensive fighter jet, the F-35, will be stationed? That was the question that Colonel Erik Peterson, the Commander of the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field, addressed in his talk to Rotarians. Already Madison made the first cut from 18 Air Guard bases to today’s five.
Peterson argued that Madison meets and exceeds all Air Force criteria for this major strategic decision. We have the capacity to handle F-35s with today’s F-16 hangers and support facilities. We have cost advantages over other sites because just four minutes away—at F-36 speeds!—are 30,000 square miles of practice air space and a target range. Four minutes may not seem important, but for an aircraft that costs $40,000 an hour to fly, having everything nearby will be a strong cost argument for locating the squadron here. Another cost advantage is that we already own the necessary hangers and support facilities. We will not adversely affect air quality and the F-35’s will be no noisier than today’s F-16s. Finally, Madison has always given the 115th Fighter Wing strong community support. That’s a strong resume, said Peterson.
Zach Brandon, the President of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and a project supporter who attended the meeting, reminded everyone that Madison has been an Air Force town since Truax was founded during World War II. Remember, Brandon continued, when 9-11 happened, it was F-16s from Truax that scrambled to protect O’Hare Airport. This is the proud job of the National Guard.
Peterson said that if the F-35 wing is stationed at Truax, its economic impact based on payrolls and purchased services will be $100 million per year. Another benefit that few realize is that the Air Force pays for the fire-rescue program at Dane County Regional Airport.