F35s arrive to Dannelly Field

  • Published
  • 187th Fighter Wing

DANNELLY FIELD, Ala. --The 187th Fighter Wing is scheduled to receive three F-35 Lightning II fighter jets at Dannelly Field, Alabama, December 5, 2023. 

The Red Tails are the third Air National Guard unit slated to transition to fifth generation fighter aircraft.

More than a decade of preparation and planning has been underway by the members of the 187th Fighter Wing and the state of Alabama has yielded dividends in bringing home the latest in fifth generation capabilities.

“It is an honor to be able to fly one of the first F-35’s home,” said Lt. Col. Richard Peace, a pilot for the 187th Fighter Wing. “I have always looked up to the Tuskegee Airmen and can confidently say we will continue their legacy using the F-35’s. Everyone at the wing has been hard at work preparing for this moment and it is finally here. I am excited to see everyone and to be back after months of pilot training preparing for this special day.”

The lineage of the Red Tails dates back to the P-51 Mustang in World War II, and most recently the F-16 Viper that was divested at the wing in 2022. The F-35 Lightning II will now take its place on the mantle, charged with continuing to accelerate the Red Tail legacy.

“The F-35 changes the role that the 187th serves in the United States’ application of airpower,” said Maj. Bart Smith, a 187th Fighter Wing weapons instructor. “I’ve had the opportunity to experience the awesome capabilities that the F-35A brings to the joint fight. What truly separates the 187th apart will never be the aircraft, but the Airmen that equip, maintain and fly it.”

In the past few years, more than 33 core cadre maintainers and other support functions have been vigorously training for the arrival of the fifth generation aircraft at external training locations. The Airmen will bring back their knowledge and experience to train the members at home station.

“They are highly skilled, highly trained maintainers that dedicated years of their lives and moved from Alabama to embed with F-35 guard or active-duty units to learn best practices,” said Capt. Bryon Townsend, 187th Fighter Maintenance Group’s director of operations. “We are grateful for the work they have put into their training and expect them serve as the leaders that our maintenance members will look to for guidance, expertise and empowerment.”

The unit is preparing to receive a total of 20 F-35’s over the next five years. Construction over the next several years will total approximately $112 million. The wing is projected to be fully operational by 2026.