The highly anticipated arrival of the first two F-35 fighter jets is set for tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Vermont Air National Guard base at Burlington International Airport.
“This is such an exciting time for the 158th Fighter Wing, and we are looking forward to sharing it with the community,” said Col. David Smith, commander. “We have all worked very hard to prepare for this moment, and I assure you our airmen are ready.”
According to a press release from the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG), the planes will make the trek from Fort Worth, Texas. They will be flown by two VTANG pilots, who left on Tuesday to prepare for the historic arrival. The event is not open to the public.
“The outstanding legacy of the Vermont Air National Guard is on full display, and we couldn’t be prouder of our airmen,” said Brig. Gen. Greg Knight, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard. “It’s been a long time coming, and we are thrilled to welcome the F-35 to Vermont. Now, we can get to work on our own Vermont Air National Guard aircraft.”
The 158th Fighter Wing will be the first Air National Guard unit to field a squadron of F-35As, a distinction the unit is proud of, Smith told The Other Paper in a private interview last week.
Thus far, the F-35s have logged 205,000 flight hours, been delivered to 12 different countries, across 19 bases worldwide. More than 850 pilots and 8,120 maintainers are trained on the F-35 airframe, the press release notes.
“We really are ushering in a new era,” Smith told The Other Paper. “We’ve got a lot of experience with fighter aircraft … we're proud of our heritage, and we're proud that we were selected as the first unit and we're really excited to be as good in the F-35 as we were in the F-16.”