State Rep. Belton: Air Force, Bring the F-35 Lightning II Down to Georgia
Thursday, March 8th, 2018
A strange thing happened in Vermont that presents a fascinating opportunity for Georgia.
Burlington, Vermont, is a picturesque village on the banks of Lake Champlain and the most populous city in Vermont, located just 45 miles south of the Canadian border and home to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Nestled gently in the arms of the Green Mountains, the area is most famous for its role in the American Revolutionary War. Back in 1775, the “Green Mountain Boys,” led by Ethan Allen, captured Fort Ticonderoga, a feat that was described at the time as impossible. In what historians now call the “noble train of artillery,” they then dragged the fort’s cannon down to Boston on sleds, battling frozen rivers and harsh snow in one of the coldest winters on record. Mounting the cannon over the heights of Boston Harbor, they forced the startled British fleet to immediately surrender the city. Thus, the “most stupendous feat of logistics,” as historians now describe it, gave the colonials their first ever victory in the struggle for American independence.
Yesterday, the decedents of those very same Green Mountain Boys told the Air Force they did not want “noisy” fighter jets stationed at Burlington. In a stunning referendum, voters rejected the Air Force’s plan to house the new F-35 Lightning II in Burlington.
The F-35 is America’s newest warplane. Built by Lockheed Martin right here at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County, the single seat, single engine stealth fighter is capable of supersonic speeds. Flown by the Air Force, Navy and Marines, it is a “fifth generation” fighter that is literally the future of air combat for decades to come. Priced at $100 Million per airplane, it is considered “a bargain” compared to the F-22 Raptor which costs about $339 Million per plane.
The vote that took place in Vermont is shocking, but not unprecedented. The Air Force had planned to locate an entire wing of F-35’s to Burlington, which would have provided 1,100 jobs and an economic impact of roughly half a billion dollars each year, but similar votes in other states – including Alaska, Florida and North Carolina – have caused the Pentagon to locate assets, usually jets, elsewhere.
As chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Military Affairs Working Group, I am introducing a resolution today to urge the Air Force to locate those jets here in Georgia. I have also spoken directly with U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Reps. Jody Hice and Rick Allen about this effort, and I have communicated with the staffs of other members of Georgia’s congressional delegation about getting this done. Moody Air Force Base almost received a wing of F-35’s last year and desperately needs to replace their aging A-10 Thunderbolt II airplanes, commonly referred to as the “Warthog.” Robins Air Force Base faces losing its E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems wing with the Air Force’s recent decision to not update its 50-year-old airplanes, and Dobbins Air Reserve Base and Hunter Army Airfield have plenty of room to house these jets.
Georgia has the fifth largest military population in America with an economic impact of $25 billion every year. The military is our state’s largest single employer, providing 150,000 jobs and indirectly employing a third of a million Georgians. Georgia ranks second highest in students who serve in the military, which is twice the national average.
When I hear mighty engines roar and see silver wings on high, I hear the sound of freedom. If Vermont does not want those jets or jobs, let us bring them down to Georgia.