Fort Wayne air base making push for new fighter jet squadron

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — An Air National Guard fighter wing based in Fort Wayne is working to house a squadron of new F-35 fighter jets.

“For us, for our future and for the future of the Air Force, we are looking to be a successful site selection for F-35 basing when they make the next three rounds of basing decisions that are coming up within the next year,” said Col. Patrick Renwick, commander of the Air Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing.

Renwick and his senior staff met with Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski during her Nov. 10 visit to the unit at Fort Wayne International Airport. The unit currently flies A-10 attack jets and is scheduled to convert to F-16 fighters in coming years.

The Indiana congressional delegation will try to steer an F-35 squadron to Fort Wayne but needs a strategic plan, said Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“It is very competitive, but I believe that we can do it,” the congresswoman from Elkhart told The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1WN2SjB).

Several military bases around the nation are testing or flying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will be using the new fighter jet. The Air Force version costs about $130 million each.

Walorski said that an overlay district to protect ground and air space around Fort Wayne’s airport could boost the 122nd Fighter Wing’s bid. Such a district would prohibit construction in areas near the airport and the adjacent military base.

The 122nd Fighter Wing “can basically say, ‘Here, we have a large area, we’re not going to be encroached upon, we can handle more missions, bigger aircraft.’ That’s important,” she said.

Northern Indiana’s Grissom Air Reserve Base was among four finalists to fly a new tanker aircraft, with the Air Force recently choosing a base in North Carolina. Walorski said Grissom, which is near Peru, finished second in the site selection.

“We’ve learned from that,” she said.

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

 

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