MAYS LANDING -- U.S. Representative Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) has led the full New Jersey Congressional delegation in a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James urging consideration of the Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing for future basing decisions of the F-35 fighter jets. Last week the U.S. Air Force announced it had narrowed to five (5) the possible locations for initial F-35 basing. The 177th Fighter Wing was among the eighteen (18) locations considered, though excluded from the final list.

“We believe these qualities demonstrate strategic military value for the Air Force, and that the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base would be an ideal location for the F-35A looking forward. We also look forward to any comments regarding changes the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base can make to improve its candidacy for future F-35A basing decisions,” the letter stated.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.), and U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.-06), Bill Pascrell (N.J.-09), Chris Smith (N.J.-04), Albio Sires (N.J.-08), Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.-11), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.-12), Leonard Lance (N.J.-07), Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10), Tom MacArthur (N.J.-03), Donald Norcross (N.J.-01), and Scott Garrett (N.J.-05).

The text of the letter is as follows:

December 14, 2016

The Honorable Deborah Lee James

Secretary

United States Air Force

Secretary James:

In light of the decision for the Operations 5 and 6 beddown of the F-35A Lightning II to be based at five candidate military installations around the country, we are writing to express our disappointment in the Air Force’s exclusion of the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, home to the 177th Fighter Wing (FW).

In future basing decisions for next generation aircraft, including upcoming F-35A basing decisions, we hope the following qualities are considered for selecting the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base:

Low Cost/Ready Now/Sustainable: Base infrastructure and facilities postured

Newer facilities at the installation have already been designed to meet the needs of the F-35, and its older facilities require only limited modifications to become 5th generation capable. For example, there is covered parking for the entire fleet of F-35s, a state of the art maintenance facility integrated with 5th generation capability, and space readily available for simulator upgrades. The base also has a recently constructed air support operations squadron building ready for F-35 air-to-ground integration.

Strategic Location: Centrally positioned

Located in Egg Harbor Township, the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base is strategically situated halfway between Washington D.C. and New York City. The area surrounding the base is predominantly agricultural, low-density residential with more than 50 percent of Atlantic County located within the New Jersey Pineland National Reserve. The base is also a primary launching point for missions to Europe, located near Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst for active duty support functions, and has optimum weather conditions year round.

Combat Ready Track Record: Recent combat mission execution

The 177th FW has the distinction of having an operations group that is comprised of a fighter squadron, an air support operations squadron, and a bombing range all under a single command. The unit has more than 14 years of homeland defense experience; including three combat deployments: Operation Iraqi Freedom (2006, 2010) and Operation Enduring Freedom (2012). The 177th FW also plays a critical role in both the Air Combat Command’s Aerospace Expeditionary Force structure and NORAD’s Air Force Aerospace Control Alert mission.

We believe these qualities demonstrate strategic military value for the Air Force, and that the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base would be an ideal location for the F-35A looking forward.

We also look forward to any comments regarding changes the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base can make to improve its candidacy for future F-35A basing decisions. Thank you.

Sincerely,

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