The US National Guard announced 8 December, 2023 the delivery of three F-35 Lightning Jets for the Red Tails of the Alabama Air National Guard, becoming the third national guard to transition to the fifth generation fighter aircraft.  

The F-35’s will replace the the Red Tails’ F-16 Vipers that were divested in 2022, with a total of 20 of the new fighters to be delivered to the wing over the next 5 years, at a cost of $112m. By 2026 the wing is expected to be fully operational, according to a release from the US National Guard

“The F-35 changes the role that the 187th serves in the United States’ application of airpower,” said Maj. Bart Smith, a 187th Fighter Wing weapons instructor. The Alabama Air National Guard have been deployed overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq, as part of post September 11 operations in the Global War on Terrorism, and  various US Air National Guard fighter wings have been deployed to Europe in recent years to contribute to Nato’s air policing mission. 

More than 33  Alabama Air National Guard core cadre maintainers and other support functions have been training over the recent years for the arrival of the aircraft at external training locations with the aim of using the experience at their home station.

“They are highly skilled, highly trained maintainers that dedicated years of their lives and moved from Alabama to embed with F-35 Guard or active-duty units to learn best practices,” said Capt. Bryon Townsend, 187th Fighter Maintenance Group’s director of operations. “We are grateful for the work they have put into their training and expect them to serve as the leaders that our maintenance members will look to for guidance, expertise and empowerment.”

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