Over that past several months, there has been a lot of rhetoric concerning the basing of F-35 aircraft with the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field. This past week, some of my colleagues and I had the opportunity to hear firsthand from Assistant Secretary of the Air Force John Henderson as he dispelled many false narratives and laid out the facts.
A major concern has been noise. The F-16 and the F-35 actually have similar decibel levels. However, as Secretary Henderson pointed out, the sounds of the aircrafts are different. To put this in practical terms, a lawn mower and a household blender have similar decibel levels but, as most folks can hear, the sound is different.
Additionally, one thing that seems to be forgotten in this process is that there are certain expectations that accompany an airport. The main purpose of an airport is to have aircraft takeoff and land. Aircraft make noise. The select few that are opposed to the F-35 say nothing about the approximately 100 commercial flights that take off and land each day at Truax Field. Nobody objected to the new non-stop flights that were announced in early November. It’s ironic that the same folks who complain about the F-35 welcome non-stop service to Seattle.
Some people are claiming that the current F-16s could be upgraded with a newer version or another aircraft. This is incorrect. Secretary Henderson was very clear that the lifespan for the current F-16s that are currently at Truax will expire in about five to seven more years. At that point, there is no other aircraft option other than the F-35.
If the 115th Fighter Wing does not upgrade to F-35 airframes, it will not have a mission, and in the eyes of the Air Force that unit would no longer be needed.
Contrary to what some alarmists are claiming, the F-35 assigned to Truax will not be carrying nuclear weapons. The aircraft will not be configured to carry nuclear weapons and there is no nuclear weapons storage capability.
Additionally, some claim that Truax holds back the surrounding neighborhoods. Of course, opponents fail to acknowledge the businesses and communities that have grown around that airfield over the past 71 years. Many businesses, including MSA and Ale Asylum Brewery have built multi-million-dollar buildings near the airport. Madison Area Technical College completed a huge project to improve its campus near Truax Field. And, if you drive along Packers Avenue, you will see a lot of new apartment buildings that have been built and more that are under construction. Claiming that the F-35 will curtail this growth and harm students seems to be just more hyperbole.
The men and women of the 115th Fighter Wing have worked countless hours and have served our country with honor. They have earned the right to fly and crew the F-35 aircraft. They have been selected over 18 other units throughout the United States Air Force for this mission.
As a state, we should celebrate this achievement. These service members live and shop in our communities, their children go to school with our children, and they are members of our churches and civic organizations. They make our communities better, and their service makes our lives better. For their sake and ours, it’s time to end the obstruction.
Rep. Tony Kurtz represents the 50th Assembly District.