Are F-35s Louder Than F-16s? Vermont’s Residents Shaken By F-35’s First Training Run

Are F-35s Louder Than F-16s? Vermont's Residents Shaken By F-35’s First Training Run
An F-35A Lightning II lands while an F-16C Fighting Falcon waits to take off at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 29, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Heidi Goodsell)

On Sept. 19, 2019, The first two of an eventual 20 F-35A jets arrived at the Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington, the first Guard unit to receive the next-generation fighter. The two stealth jets, AF17-5265 and AF17-5266 will be operated by the 158th Fighter Wing. Seven new F-35s will arrive in Vermont through 2019.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is designed to fight and win against the most technologically advanced adversaries in the world. One opponent it wasn’t ready for, however, was suburban sprawl.  Across America, communities living near Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps bases up in arms over the single seat fighter flying over and near their neighborhoods, disrupting the tranquility of their homes and subjecting them to “vacuum cleaner” levels of noise.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is equipped with one of the most powerful military aircraft engines in the world. Making the F-35 a single engine fighter ensured the need for a particularly powerful engine. The Pratt & Whitney F135 engine delivers 43,000 pounds of thrust, single handedly propelling a 70,000 pound aircraft, laden with weapons and fuel through the air with the power and agility to defeat threats.

Vermont’s first F-35s have begun roaring into the skies and these first training missions are giving communities near the Burlington airport an indication of just how loud the planes are.

One jet took off around 9 a.m. and landed around 10:15 a.m. during an overcast day in the Burlington area, and a second flight took off around 1:45 p.m. and landed just before 3 p.m. Lt. Chelsea Clark, public affairs officer for the Vermont Air National Guard, said that the jets went on a training mission.

Critics are primarily concerned about the increased noise the jets will bring to the region compared to their predecessor, the F-16. Many more households, primarily in Williston and Winooski, will have average noise levels higher than 65 decibels, according to a noise map released by the airport in May. In Winooski, 43% of residents are living in areas which have average noise levels higher than 65 decibels, according to the noise map.

In Winooski, some residents said they are against the basing, while others said they are waiting to hear the new jets more times before determining where they stand.


Documents obtained by VTDigger showed that at other bases hosting the F-35, afterburners, which make takeoffs louder, might be used more than 10 times as often as originally reported. The Vermont Guard has maintained that they would only use afterburners on less than 5% of takeoffs.

Basing opponents requested a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and a pause on basing until that study was completed.  But the Air Force reiterated that the Guard intends to use afterburners infrequently.

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