The first F-35 fighter jet is coming to Burlington International Airport in September.
At first, opposition groups concentrated on the F-35 being noisier than the F-16s they’re replacing, but now, the attention seems to be shifting to nuclear capability.
The group ‘Citizens Against Nuclear Bombers In Vermont’ just formed earlier this year, and it got together Friday night for an information session in Burlington just after another F-35 crash.
A standing ovation greeted retired Air Force Col. Rosanne Greco in Burlington. The former South Burlington City Council president opposes the F-35 basing.
The Vermont Air National Guard revealed this week that the F-35s coming soon to BTV will not be nuclear-capable and that there are no current plans to eventually outfit them that way.
“What the Guard said was correct, but what people have to understand is that the Department of Defense can and will change military missions as security dictates,” Col. Greco said. “The decision to give them the nuclear capability, and perhaps, the decision to give the Vermont Air Guard a nuclear mission, is something the Department of Defense does not have to reveal to the public.”
A Japanese F-35 crashed into the Pacific Ocean earlier this week; the pilot is still missing. The only other crash of an F-35 to date was in South Carolina last September, “simply because they baby it,” defense analyst Pierre Sprey said. “It’s such a bad airplane, they’re very, very careful with it, so they get a fairly good accident rate.”
Sprey helped the U.S. Air Force come up with the design requirements for the F-16. He says the F-35 is worse than the F-16 in every way.
“It’s about five times as expensive as the F-16,” he said. “It’s a worse air-to-air fighter, it’s a far worse bomber and it’s ludicrous for close support. Those are the three missions it was supposed to do.”
However, the Vermont Air National Guard has spent years, and tens of millions of dollars, preparing for the F-35s. We’ve spoken with them twice recently.
“We already have our airmen that are trained in the airplane, both to maintain it and to fly it and support it, and more of them will come back over the summer, and we’re just ramping up quickly,” Col. David Smith said.
“I’ve gone down to Texas where they build them and flown the simulators a few times,” Lt. Col. Dan Finnegan said. “We will be flying the F-35 similar to the amount we fly the F-16.”
Last year, the Burlington, South Burlington and Winooski City Councils all passed resolutions calling for the F-35 basing to be canceled. Those resolutions were mainly centered around noise concerns.
Citizens Against Nuclear Bombers In Vermont is hosting additional information sessions in Waterbury and Middlebury on Saturday.