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.
Lt. Col. Nathan Graber, a pilot assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, and Lt. Col. Anthony Marek, a pilot and commander of the 134th FS, landed the first two F-35 Lightning IIs assigned to the 158th FW at the Vermont Air National Guard Base, South Burlington, Vt.
The “Green Mountain Boys” ceased their F-16C/D Block 30 operations on Apr. 6, 2019, after flying the “Viper” for 33 years.
The first F-35A in 158th FW markings (AF17-5265) made its first flight from Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas, on Jul. 31, 2019.
Why Vermont Air National Guard Is Getting Advanced stealth Fighter Jet?
The Vermont Air National Guard F-35 delivery follows years of hard work, planning and missions in the guard’s previous aircraft, F-16s that flew continuously for weeks over New York after the 9/11 attacks and in multiple combat tours in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East.
“The arrival of the F-35 is a significant milestone for the Green Mountain Boys of the Vermont Air National Guard and state of Vermont. The incredible hard work and dedication from our Airmen and the support from our families and community have brought us to this very moment,” said Col. David Smith, 158th Fighter Wing commander in a public release. “The F-35 provides tremendous capability and secures our future for decades. We will continue to be ready to answer our state and nation’s call.”
“As the Air National Guard’s legacy aircraft age and threats advance, the F-35 is essential to maintaining air power now and for decades to come,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “We are proud to partner with and build on the Guard’s rich legacy as we deliver the 5th Generation of air power to the Air National Guard. The men and women of the Guard deserve the most advanced technology – and with the F-35, they will always be a step ahead.”
The Air Force describes the F-35 as its fifth-generation fighter, combining stealth technology with speed and agility. Different models are being built for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, and are being sold to American allies across the world.
It is also the U.S. military’s most expensive weapons system of all time, with an estimated total cost of $1.5 trillion over the expected half-century life of the program. The model of the planes that will be based in Burlington cost about $94 million each.
Assigning F-35s, which are designed to replace a number of aging fighter models, to Vermont shows the days are long gone when Air National Guard units received hand-me-down aircraft while new planes went exclusively to active duty Air Force units, said Ian Bryan, a retired Tennessee Air National Guard pilot who worked in Washington as a legislative liaison with the National Guard Bureau.
He said Vermont, and the guard, are at the forefront of learning how to make the best use of the new airplanes.
“Ten years from now, we need to have figured out how to use this F-35 thing and it’s going to be the lead as the wings fall off some of these old airplanes,” Bryan said.