Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Matt Gaetz, John Rutherford and Michael Waltz wrote Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan this week, requesting that Air National Guard Installations currently operating older F-15 Eagles be considered for the next series of F-35 basing decisions.
They insisted the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing is the ideal location to base a fifth-generation fighter squadron for the Guard. Currently, the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing flies the F-15 C/D Eagles, which the members noted have sustainment challenges.
The Florida Republicans wrote the following:
As the Air Force develops the enterprise definition for F-35 Operational Locations 9-11, we write to respectfully urge you to include Air National Guard installations that operate F-15 C/D Eagles. Recently, Dr. Roper testified before the House Armed Services Committee that more than two-thirds of the F-15 C fleet is past its service life. This reality, coupled with the recent maintenance and sustainment challenges resulting in the grounding of many F-15Cs, requires a quick recapitalization to support our national defense.
A Florida installation would be an ideal home for these aircraft, their mission, and the personnel who will operate and maintain them. As you know, the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing currently flies the F-15 C/D Eagles and is critical to the air defense mission for the southeastern United States. Because of its strategic location and access to unparalleled training infrastructure and airspace, including direct access to overwater operating areas without land overflight, the 125th is one of our nation’s premier homeland defense wings. As we see increased threats from adversaries, it is critical that the aircraft operated by the 125th is recapitalized with the most capable fighters.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s mission is to provide complete battlespace domination in the form of electronic attack; air-to-surface stealth; air-to-air supremacy; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance world-wide in support of national defense objectives; in conjunction with other airborne assets within the Air Force inventory; some of which already reside in Florida. Basing these aircraft systems in close proximity will optimize training and operations efficiencies. Additionally, the 125th Fighter Wing has twice been a finalist for F-35 basing. The City of Jacksonville and the State of Florida have a long history of supporting our installations, including unmatched quality of life and reduced encroachment issues.
With increased procurement from Congress, and the increased F-15C sustainment challenges, we believe the Air Force will understand the urgent requirement to equip the 125th Fighter Wing with the most capable fifth-generation fighter. We look forward to the Air Force executing its strategic basing process and standby to assist in any way.