Advance Notice: Briefs

Selfridge’s F-35 fighter plane bid grounded again 

By: - June 4, 2021 11:08 am

Five U.S. Airmen assigned to the 107th Special Operations Weather Team (SWOT) perform a parachute jump from a C-130 Hercules aircraft, not pictured, at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Sept. 17, 2012. | DoD photo by Brittani Baisden, U.S. Air Force via Flickr Public Domain

The U.S. Air Force announced Thursday that it has selected a site in Arkansas over Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County and several other candidates for its planned international F-35 training center.

Ebbing Air National Guard Base has been chosen to house up to 36 F-35 fighter planes at its base. The news comes after a majority of the Michigan congressional delegation backed Selfridge’s bid through a joint letter led by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Twp.) and public statements. 

It is the second time in as many years that a Selfridge opportunity connected to the F-35 has been rejected by the Air Force. Selfridge was in the running to house the F-35 in 2020. But in April of last year, the Air Force selected sites in Alabama and Wisconsin instead.

“The F-35 program is a multi-service, multi-national effort that dramatically increases interoperability between the U.S. and other F-35 partner nations,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth. “We are fully committed to the F-35 as the cornerstone of the U.S. Air Force’s fighter fleet and look forward to building stronger relationships with nations who want to work by our side.”

McClain, who represents Harrison Township, where Selfridge is located, expressed displeasure with the decision. 

“Selfridge Air National Guard Base was clearly the best option to house the Singapore F-35s,” she said in a statement. “I’m disappointed the U.S. Air Force chose a different location.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) also was disappointed.

“There are many important, unanswered questions about how and why the Air Force made this decision. I have repeatedly pressed for a decision based on fairness and merits, and I’m demanding answers and full transparency from the Air Force and Biden administration about why Selfridge Air National Guard Base was not chosen,” said Peters, who is a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) echoed Peters’ sentiment.

“I strongly disagree with the Air Force’s decision. Selfridge has the personnel, the airspace and the facilities, and was the most cost-effective choice to host these F-35 training missions,” said Stabenow. “Selfridge was already evaluated by the Air Force as a location that could support the F-35 in a previous basing. Bottom line—this decision simply does not add up. I will be demanding answers to a number of questions as to how this decision was made by the Acting Air Force Secretary.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.