After a week of dueling statements from F-35 opposition figures and the Vermont Air National Guard about the exact year F-35s might come to Vermont, the U.S. Air Force is weighing in.
Opponents, citing an Air Force study, say the new jets could start arriving as soon as 2015, but Vermont Air National Guard officials said yesterday that 2020 was the earliest F-35s could begin to arrive in Vermont.
The Air Force environmental impact study (EIS) of the potential basing said that under either of the two proposed scenarios at Burlington International Airport, “ the F-35A beddown [basing] would be completed in 2020” and begin “no sooner than 2015.”
Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, said that while she understands “how the way that that was written is confusing,” the Air Force won’t be sending any of the jets to Vermont until 2020.
“From a standpoint of being ready, obviously if a decision were made [to base the F-35s at Burlington International Airport], it was written [in the report] that it could happen that early,” she said. “But the bottom line is we won’t have aircraft to put at that location until 2020.”
If chosen, Burlington would be that last of three bases selected in this round to receive the jets. Stefanek said the reason the Air Force EIS study said the basing could happen sooner was, “basically just to give some flexibility to the timeline.”
So does this mean Burlington definitely won’t get F-35s before 2020 if it’s chosen?
“It’s hard for me to say definitely anything,” Stefanek said. “But I’m comfortable with you saying at this time the Air Force does not have aircraft available to put … into the first National Guard base until 2020.”