A MASSIVE — and successful — TEAM EFFORT TO LAND THE F-35 MISSION HAS MONTGOMERY AND THE RIVER REGION READY TO GO SUPERSONIC.
L A N D I N G S O O N . . . BOOM
The LEGACY of our Location
Brig. Gen. Randy Efferson, Chief of Staff Air National Guard, enthusiastically explained how winning the F-35 program will help continue the important legacy of the Red Tails. “The 187th Fighter Wing is home to the 100th Fighter Squadron, which is one of the original Tuskegee units dedicated to flying African Americans in combat fighter aircraft,” he said. “This is a very important and immeasurable legacy for the State of Alabama. Receiving the F-35 ensures this legacy for the next half-century.”
When an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound, a shockwave is created, and this wave produces an audible thunderous burst known as a sonic boom. Often associated with jets — since they attain the velocity necessary to break the sound barrier — sonic booms generate tremendous energy. On December 20, a sonic boom exploded across Montgomery; it was a shockwave of excitement and opportunity brought on by Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II jet.
There may not have been an F-35 anywhere near the capital city on that day, but when the news broke that Montgomery was getting the coveted fleet of F-35s, that it would be “bedding down” in the capital city with the historic 187th Fighter Wing, it had the same earth-shaking, house-rattling and awe-inspiring effect of an actual sonic boom. And it had much more significance.
The announcement led to a wave of excitement and hometown pride. Leaders and officials touted the huge economic boost it will bring to our area and the entire state. Before the first plane arrives, jobs will be created and capital investment will occur. And the image boost is just as important. “While the direct economic impact is impressive, the cutting-edge military technology and ongoing missions at Maxwell and Gunter will attract more innovators and technology professionals here,” said Leslie Sanders, Vice President, Southern Division for Alabama Power and chair of the F-35 task force that worked tirelessly to bring this impressive win to the city.
But they also praised the high level of collaboration from the community and the productive teamwork approach that led to the achievement. “The F-35 effort was special because every aspect of our community rallied in support — our military partners, business community, civic leadership and incredible support from our elected leaders. Few issues have created such unity,” said Sanders. “There was incredible collaboration at every level. I have not been involved in a project in which there was such close partnership between the military, public officials, business community, education leaders and private citizens. We often met several times a week to discuss opportunities presented and potential obstacles. When calls were made for help, we found open doors and willing support.”
IN THE AIR
An array of technical innovations make the F-35 the most advanced fighter jet in the Air Force. The combination of extreme stealth, maneuverability, improved communication between the pilot and the craft and between multiple aircraft mean it can do the job of multiple jets. It’s also more effective, more survivable and less expensive to maintain than previous fighter jets.
ENGINE: Single Pratt & Whitney F135 or GE Rolls-Royce fighter engine
IN IT TOGETHER: Development partner countries: Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Turkey
WEAPONS PAYLOAD: 6,800 kg to 8,160 kg
SPEED: Mach 1.6
42% of the jet is built of composite materials
“We couldn’t have gotten far without political courage shown by elected leaders at every level (local, state and federal). Senator Shelby was extremely instrumental at the Federal level, as were Congresswomen Sewell and Roby. On the state and local level, we received outstanding support from Governor Ivey and every elected official in the city of Montgomery as well as the County. That translated into successfully building a coalition of people unwilling to settle for ‘almost.’ We’re proud of our military partners; we’re proud to call them neighbors and friends. In a few years, I’ll be proud to hear the roar overhead and know we were all a small part in helping bring the F-35 home to Montgomery.”
Now that the F-35s coming here is official, Montgomery will be moving forward even faster, preparing to take off and reach new heights. CHECK OUT THESE STRATOSPHERIC STATS:
The bed down of the F-35s directly protects a collective 4,000 JOBS. It will ensure that both the Montgomery and Birmingham Air National Guard units, as well as their associated units throughout the state, remain active for the next 50 years.
Direct economic impact (salary and operations management) of current mission: $80 MILLION ANNUALLY
OTHER IMPACTS: The F-35 represents $2 BILLION WORTH OF AIRCRAFT (20 aircraft) to be stationed at Dannelly Field.