The drive for the 148th Fighter Wing to be awarded the military's newest fighter jet, the F-35, got a boost Wednesday when the state's federal lawmakers wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force in support of the Duluth-based Air National Guard base.
"The 148th Fighter Wing is an ideal placement for the F-35," said the letter penned by U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, along with U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.
The lawmakers cited the base's modern facilities — with $100 million in construction over the past 15 years — abundant air space and a track record of accomplishment, including its conversion to flying the F-16 Block 50 aircraft in 2010.
"Pilots and maintenance crew have excelled with the conversion proving that the men and women on the 148th Fighter Wing will excel at the challenge of mastering the F-35," the lawmakers wrote.
In May, the 148th submitted its entry to the National Guard Bureau that put it in the running to become one of the next two Air Guard units to receive the F-35. Seventeen other bases are under consideration, and the finalists are expected to be announced late this year.
Community support is one of the key areas that can allow a base to separate itself from the others, and getting lawmakers' support was essential, explained 148th leadership for a News Tribune story published in May.
Nearly 2,500 of the aircraft are scheduled to reach multiple branches of the armed forces during the next roughly 20-plus years. The aircraft is being counted on to give the U.S. and, so far, 11 partner countries air superiority until 2070.