First F-35 fighter jets arrive in Alabama

WSFA By Jonathan Grass
Published: Dec. 6, 2023 at 6:14 PM CST

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – After years of preparation, the 187th Fighter Wing has received its first F-35 Lightning II fighter jets at Dannelly Field.

Three jets arrived Wednesday, according to a news release from the 187th Fighter Wing.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said these first arrivals were marked by a small, private ceremony for soldiers and airmen. A larger, public event is expected when more arrive in the new year, although the exact date was not specified.

These F-35s are considered to be among the most advanced fighter jets in the world. And the Red Tails are the third Air National Guard unit slated to transition to the fifth generation fighter aircraft.

“It is an honor to be able to fly one of the first F-35′s home,” Lt. Col. Richard Peace said in the release. “I have always looked up to the Tuskegee Airmen and can confidently say we will continue their legacy using the F-35’s. Everyone at the wing has been hard at work preparing for this moment and it is finally here. I am excited to see everyone and to be back after months of pilot training preparing for this special day.”

The 187th Fighter Wing says it is preparing to receive a total of 20 F-35s over the next five years. The unit says construction over the next several years will total approximately $112 million.

The wing is projected to be fully operational by 2026.

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