U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today issued a statement after the Air Force decided to consolidate training for three additional squadrons of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Luke Air Force Base.
Last year, Barber urged the Air Force to consider basing the planes at Tucson International Airport where the 162nd Fighter Wing has experience and a strong track record with the international pilot training mission.
Since 1985, the 162nd has trained U.S. and international pilots to fly the F-16 fighter -- the plane that will eventually be replaced by the F-35. The 162nd has trained pilots from 24 of the 25 countries that fly the F-16, and has shown an exemplary service and safety record.
Barber's statement today:
I am disappointed that the Air Force has not selected the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard during this round of basing decisions for the F-35 fighters. I fully expect however, that as the fleet of F-35s is grown and with sales of the Joint Strike Fighter to our allies that the Air Force will consider the 162nd to train pilots who will fly this plane.
I have met with business leaders, elected officials and members of our community and I know there is widespread support for bringing the F-35 to Tucson, where it will not only be a great benefit to the Southern Arizona economy but also to the Air Force and our national security.
I remain committed to working with the Southern Arizona community to protect and expand the missions at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard.