Sens. Leahy and Sanders, Rep. Peter Welch, Gov. Phil Scott and Burlington Mayor Weinberger have all failed to properly inform Vermonters about the full effects of basing F-35s at the Burlington International Airport. Instead, they have talked up the economic benefits and minimized or left undiscussed the negatives.

Perhaps the most important of these negatives is that their support has now made the airport and a large surrounding area of Chittenden County a high priority nuclear First Strike target in the event of a low but rapidly increasing probability of any out of control nuclear conflict with Russia or China and perhaps others. An intercontinental ballistic missle-delivered 1 megaton (1000 kilotons) bomb detonated in an airburst calculated to maximize damage over the airport and surrounding parts of Chittenden County is expected to kill more than 71,000 people and cause severe injury to another 51,000 in a matter of seconds and hours. That’s almost one quarter of Vermont’s entire population.

Its air blast radius at 20 psi, (with most buildings either severely damaged or demolished) would extend to a radius of 2.8km (to East Terrace by the University of Vermont to the west and Kirby Corner at Route 2 to the east) with casualties approaching 100 percent.  

Its thermal radiation radius with third-degree burns approaching 100 percent would extend to a radius of 12.6km. That’s well into Lake Champlain to the west, Winooski and beyond to the north, Williston to the East and approaching Shelburne to the south. 

Each of us can enter our own parameters and calculate the effects of a first strike at, which is where the above effects were determined.

The argument about whether nuclear weapons will be stored here is a “red herring” diversion and unrelated to our being a first strike nuclear target. The F-35A will have the ability and capability to deliver the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb that is custom tailored for the F-35, with four different sizes of nuclear blast, ranging from 0.3 to 50 kilotons in its various modes. It is because the Vermont Air Guard’s operational mission is to support both pilots and F-35A aircraft in their ability to fly stealthily, penetrate enemy airspace undetected in a first strike, or respond to an enemy’s first strike, that the Burlington airport becomes a high priority first strike target for our enemies to destroy before that capability can be used against them.

In our republic’s representative democracy, we citizens elect our political leaders with the expectation that they will honestly and accurately inform us about decisions they make that affect our safety and well-being. A balanced explanation by our top political leaders would fully explain the benefits, the risks and why, given the above, they feel the benefits of basing the F-35s here rather than in other more remote places outweigh the risks. Unfortunately, this has not happened.

As our president and his advisors rapidly ramp up the possibility of war against Iran and heighten strategic tensions with Russia, China and North Korea, the possibility of war with its potential for unintended consequences is increasing, and with it the unimaginable possibility of profound miscalculation that would destroy a major portion of Chittenden County. Vermont’s top political leaders have put us in that position, without the full information to properly evaluate these trade-offs in advance.

Rick Hubbard is a native Vermonter, retired attorney and former economic consultant now living in South Burlington.

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