Gov. Greg Abbott believes Fort Worth is the place to be.
At least for the the F-35 Lightning II.
Abbott recently sent a letter to Air Force officials, encouraging them to choose the 301st Fighter Wing and Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base as the home base for the fighter jet.
“The 301st Fighter Wing is ready, willing and able to accept and support F-35 aircraft, pilots and maintenance personnel,” Abbott wrote to Air Force Secretary Deborah L. James in a Sept. 26 letter. “I hope you will agree that NAS Fort Worth is the clear choice for F-35 basing.”
Abbott’s move drew encouragement from local officials, including U.S. Rep. Kay Granger.
“NAS Fort Worth JRB Is the ideal location to base F-35s. The base was tailor-made for these aircraft,” said Granger, R-Fort Worth. “Not only does it have the facilities, support services and air space vital to the F-35, it’s directly across the runway from where the F-35s are made.
“In addition, the support of the community for the military is second to none,” she said. “I continue to work to ensure the Air Force is aware of all of the reasons NAS Fort Worth JRB should be their first choice to base F-35s.”
At a time when Congress may again look at belt-tightening, as defense dollars shrink and troop numbers drop, it never hurts to shore up local bases, some say.
Congress has rejected Defense Department calls for a new Base Realignment and Closure round — to determine which military installations would remain open and which should be closed — but Pentagon officials continue to push for one, saying it’s time to “right-size our infrastructure.”
During five BRAC rounds between 1988 and 2005, eight installations in Texas — and hundreds across the country — were closed.
During five BRAC rounds from 1988 to 2005, eight installations in Texas — and hundreds across the country — were closed.
The former Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth was ordered closed during the 1991 BRAC. But two years later, local officials helped create the NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, now a bustling installation that houses dozens of tenant commands from multiple services.
“Political support from the state may tip the balance in the federal government deciding where to locate the F-35 basing and sending the letter doesn’t cost the state anything,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “The best strategic play is to signal a welcome embrace by Texas.”
Making the case
Fort Worth, Abbott said, is a prime location because the 301st Fighter Wing, the reserve unit housed at the Naval Air Station, already has the airspace, airfield, training areas and other factors needed to support manufacturing and flight testing for the F-35.
“NAS Fort Worth and Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, are co-located and share the runway,” Abbott wrote. “The installation has proven its ability to support F-16s and has established infrastructure and relationships conductive to F-35 operations, maintenance and training.”
“The installation has proven its ability to support F-16s and has established infrastructure and relationships conductive to F-35 operations, maintenance and training,” he wrote.
The governor promoted the area as a place that has “superb year-round flying weather” with plenty of elbow room.
Training areas are within 70 miles of the base and “offer over five thousand square miles of high and low (Military Operations Area) and access to extensive Military Training Routes,” Abbott wrote.
Gov. Greg Abbott said he’s weighing in because Texas has a long history of supporting the military.
Abbott said he’s weighing in because Texas has a long history of supporting the military and he wants to make this state the “most military friendly state in the country.”