The National Guard Bureau and Department of the Air Force held an informational meeting August 10 at the Portuguese Hall in Lemoore about the proposal to locate the F-35A Lightning II and the F-15EX at the Naval Air Station Lemoore (NAS).
The National Guard Bureau proposes to beddown one squadron of F-15EX aircraft at two of three alternative locations and one squadron of F-35A aircraft at one of four alternative locations.
Lemoore is one of the four preferred locations that are being considered for the beddown of F-35A aircraft that would replace the legacy F-15C/D aircraft. In addition to Fresno, the competing locations for the F-35A beddowns are:
- Barnes Air National Guard Base at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, Westfield, Massachusetts.
- NAS Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
It’s still early in the process and the Department of Defense (DOD) could decide that the 144th Fighter Wing should remain in Fresno but in the meantime DOD is seeking public comment on the environmental impact of the proposal.
Possible environmental impacts include added noise, air pollution, traffic, damage to plants and animals from the additional aircraft and personnel, according to the environmental impact statement presentation on August 10.
County Supervisors Doug Verboon (District 4 Hanford-Armona) and Joe Neves (District 2 Avenal, Corcoran, Home Garden and Kettleman City) attending the Lemoore session thought the move was a great idea and would be a economic boost to the area.
Hanford Mayor Kalish Morrow, whose husband is in the Navy, also attended.
The reason the Air Force is considering the move is aging F-15 fighters in Fresno and other locations have to be replaced either with a newer model of the F-15 or the F-35A, said Colonel J.D. Lundholm vice commander of the 144th Fighter Wing.
Only the F-35A is under consideration as a replacement for the 144th’s aircraft, he said.
Since Lemoore already flies the Navy version of the F-35, there would be some efficiencies in basing the Air Force version of the F-35 in Lemoore, Lundholm said.
The 144th currently flies older models of the F-15 which are ending their service life.
If the new Air Guard’s F-35 were based in Lemoore it would require 80 additional personnel on top of the 1,200 the wing already employs.
In addition, some new construction would be required at NAS Lemoore to accommodate the Air Force’s needs. The practice of basing aircraft from two different branches of the armed services is a Department of Defense trend, said Master Sergeant Charles Vaughn.
Moving to Lemoore is the most expensive alternative, he said. But the move, Vaughn said, would conform to the Defense Department’s goal of basing different branches of the service together.
In addition, Lemoore’s remote location and the buffer of land around the base would have some environmental advantages, said Lundholm.
The cost of acquiring 23 new F-35As at $85.8 million each is close to $2 billion, according to breakingdefense.com.
Meanwhile, the F15EX aircraft are costlier $117 million each, according to breaking defense.com. The Air Force wants 24 of these for the Air Guard, according to the environmental impact statement web site.
Wherever the new aircraft go, they will not be arriving until 2027 or 2028, according to the environmental impact site web site.
The environmental analysis is scheduled to be done next summer. At that time the public will have another chance to comment on it. Comments on the environmental impact statement being prepared now can also be made by mail to: Eis Project Manager, National Guard Bureau NGB 1A4AM, Shepperd Hall, 3501 Fetchet Ave., Joint Base Andrews MD 20762-5157.
There will be another virtual meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Written comments maybe submitted by Sept. 2 via email to