WESTFIELD – Air Force officials announced five installations as candidate bases for the next two Air National Guard F-35A locations and Westfield’s Barnes ANGB was not selected.
“The 104th Fighter Wing has over 69 years in fighters and proudly claims its legacy as the oldest flying unit in Massachusetts,” said Col. James Keefe, Commander of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base. “We have exceled at our mission here at Barnes since 1947 through many types of aircraft and we have the experience to continue to excel in future missions, as we recently have with the F-15C Eagle. We will continue to provide combat air power to our nation for years to come no matter the type of airframe. Aircraft types may come and go, but the Airmen will continue to excel in our mission of defending our country.”
“We continue to surpass all Air Force mission requirements when tasked to support the total force team,” said Keefe. “We are currently upgrading our F-15C/D aircraft to remain relevant in any fight, at home or in deployed role, supporting the various Combatant Commanders.”
The 104th FW F-15C/D models are currently being modified with various capabilities including the Advanced Targeting Pod, upgraded radars and Satellite Communications, all of which directly support the Homeland Defense mission and have tactical implications for overseas conflicts. Additionally, the US Air Force continues to develop plans for follow-on capabilities to ensure combat viability against “near-peer” adversaries.
“The upgrades will carry us into the future to continue to exceed air superiority needs for America’s Air Power,” said Keefe. “As the Air Force continues to review future force structure, we expect the F-15C to play a critical role in the defense of our nation for the foreseeable future, especially when it comes to defending the homeland in its current 24/7 alert mission.”
Although Barnes ANGB in Westfield was not selected as a finalist to convert to the F-35A during this round of announcements, the United States Air Force will be selecting additional Air National Guard flying units in the next three to five years for conversion during the 2025-2026 timeframe.
The candidate bases include: Dannelly Field Air Guard Station, Montgomery, Alabama; Gowen Field AGS, Boise, Idaho; Jacksonville AGS Florida, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Detroit, and Truax AGS, Madison, Wisconsin. Previously, one Air National Guard location was selected, Burlington AGS, Vermont.
The basing criteria for the operational locations were approved by the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force. The basing criteria are mission (including weather, airspace and training range availability), capacity (hangar, runway, ramp space and facilities considerations), environmental requirements, and cost factors. The Air Force assigned points to each criterion based on its importance relative to mission execution and the cost associated with basing the aircraft at a given location.