After months of deliberation and several impact studies, U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett officially designated Madison’s Truax Field as one of two sites to receive F-35 fighter jets in 2023 on Wednesday.
Supporters of the decision believe the F-35 squadron will bring economic stimulus to the Madison area, as well as potentially create dozens of jobs.
Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon expressed his endorsement of the decision following the Air Force’s announcement.
“The F-35A basing decision is much-needed positive news for Greater Madison,” Brandon said in a press release. “Time and again we have seen firsthand the tremendous value the 1,200 Airmen of the 115th Fighter Wing bring to our community. We look forward to Greater Madison continuing to be their home for decades to come.”
However, the F-35s have received pushback from community leaders and residents due to concerns regarding health and environmental impacts.
According to the Air Force’s environmental impact studies, 1,000 additional homes will be exposed to an average daily noise of 65 decibels, comparable to the sound of a loud vacuum cleaner. The study deemed this level of noise to be “incompatible” with residential use — though not uninhabitable.
The studies also found noise created by the F-35s would disproportionately affect low-income and minority residents in Madison, which is also the case at the other chosen base site in Montgomery, Alabama.
Organizations and committees — including Veterans for Peace-Madison, City of Madison and Dane County Homeless Issues Committee, Sustainable Madison Committee, Madison Metropolitan School District Board, Progressive Dane and several local neighborhood associations — have all expressed opposition to the plans.
At their April 1 meeting, the Madison Common Council adopted an advisory resolution to oppose the presence of F-35s at Truax Field. The Dane County Board of Supervisors drafted a similar resolution in March.
Still, the resolutions have no binding effect on the Air Force’s Wednesday decision.
“The Air Force’s analysis showed that of the five sites in contention, Madison would be the most severely impacted by the beddown of these bomber jets,” Common Council Alders Abbas, Foster, Kemble and Rummel said in a statement. “We are saddened by this decision, but will continue [to] stand with our neighbors in opposition to this action.”