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An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, April 22, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Winn)

Jax

Delegation renews push for Air Force F-35s in Jacksonville

Third time the charm?

In what has become a series of requests, Republican members of the Florida Delegation have petitioned the U.S. Air Force to move F-35s to Jacksonville.

Thus far, no luck. But on Wednesday, the effort renewed.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps, John Rutherford, Matt Gaetz, Michael Waltz, and Mario Díaz-Balart teamed up on a letter to the acting Secretary of the Air Force.

The contention: The Florida Air National Guard should have replacements for creaky F-15s.

The entire Florida Congressional Delegation, along with then-Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, signed off on the last request, which found Florida rebuffed.

The Republican legislators describe a “Florida installation” as “an ideal home for these aircraft, their mission, and the personnel who will operate and maintain them.”

“As you know, the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing currently flies the F-15 C/D Eagles and is critical to the air defense mission for the southeastern United States. Because of its strategic location and access to unparalleled training infrastructure and airspace, including direct access to overwater operating areas without land overflight, the 125th is one of our nation’s premier homeland defense wings. As we see increased threats from adversaries, it is critical that the aircraft operated by the 125th is recapitalized with the most capable fighters.”

The Florida location, the letter adds, allows for deployment with “other airborne assets within the Air Force inventory; some of which already reside in Florida.”

“Basing these aircraft systems in close proximity will optimize training and operations efficiencies. Additionally, the 125th Fighter Wing has twice been a finalist for F-35 basing. The City of Jacksonville and the State of Florida have a long history of supporting our installations, including unmatched quality of life and reduced encroachment issues,” the letter asserts. 

Whether Jacksonville will prevail this time is an open question. But expect other legislators to echo these calls for F-35s to Northeast Florida.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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