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Wisconsin Republicans back F-35s in Madison, despite noise concerns

An F-35 fighter plane flies over the White House on June 12, 2019, in Washington DC. - US President Donald Trump announced while meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda that Poland was ordering more than 30 F-35 combat aircraft. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP)

MADISON — Republican legislators are wading into the debate over whether the Department of Defense should station new F-35 jet fighters at an Air National Guard base in Madison, crafting a resolution supporting the idea despite neighborhood concerns about the noise the jets would cause and the effects it would have on property values.

The Air Force in 2017 selected Truax Field in Madison and Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama, as two preferred sites to house F-35s. The jets would replace Truax’s aging fleet of F-16s. The Air Force has yet to make a final decision on sites.

The possibility of the jets coming to Madison has left residents around Truax besides themselves. A draft environmental impact statement found that noise from the F-35s could render more than 1,000 homes uninhabitable.

OGDEN, UT – MARCH 15: An F-35 fighter jet taxies out for a training mission at Hill Air Force Base on March 15, 2017 in Ogden, Utah. Hill is the first Air Force base to get combat ready F-35’s. They currently have 17 that might be deployed in the fight against terrorism and ISIS in the near future. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Regardless, state Rep. Tony Kurtz and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have penned a resolution supporting the F-35s at Truax. The resolution declares that the new jets will allow the Air Force to maintain its dominance, ensure that Truax remains viable and create dozens of new jobs. The resolution also states that the jets would work together with the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee and Volk Field, a training base in Juneau County.

The state Senate was set to vote on the resolution Tuesday. The Assembly was expected to follow suit on Thursday.

Kurtz, Fitzgerald and the resolution’s other Republican sponsors appeared at a news conference Tuesday ahead of the Senate vote to tout the resolution.

Sporting red-white-and-blue fighter jet lapel pins, Kurtz and Fitzgerald argued that the F-35s would benefit the entire state, pointing out that the planes would complement the 128th’s refueling mission, use Volk Field for training maneuvers and give Truax a new mission that would keep the base open.

“It’s not about what’s going on up in the sky when it comes to the F-35,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s about what’s going on on the ground. And it is let’s maintain Truax, let’s maintain the buildings, the units, the civilian personnel, everyone that’s involved at Truax right now.”

Kurtz said he believes the concerns about the jets’ noise are overblown and that they won’t be as loud as people fear.

“This is being overexaggerated as far as the noise levels,” he said. “This is going to be no different than what the F-16 does.”

Fitzgerald served in the Army Reserve and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He’s running for Congress in a district that includes some of Milwaukee’s heavily Republican suburbs.

Kurtz was an Army helicopter pilot from 1985 to 2005 and served in the Persian Gulf.

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