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There is a lot of excitement about the F 35 fighter jet, which could be coming to Selfridge. Here are five reasons why it s expected to become one of the most capable defense systems ever made in the United States:

1. It is a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility.

3. The F 35 is designed to defeat today s most advanced threat systems both in the air and on the ground, and those expected to emerge in the decades to come.

4. F 35 is optimized to be a multirole fighter, with the ability to perform air to air, air to ground and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

5. F 35 s technology provides greater survivability, situational awareness, and effectiveness for pilots, as well as improved readiness.

Bonus: The Lightning II helmet ($350,000) enables the pilot to look down and see the ground or any other view not visible from the front of the jet thanks to advanced technology and cameras situated at strategic points on the plane.

Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township always stands ready, but it will be especially sharp when representatives of the Pentagon arrive Monday.

It s not the brass.

More importantly, it s the people who will report to them facts and information pertaining to Selfridge as a possible home for the F 35 Lightning II.

There s been a lot of work that s gone into this, said Brig. Gen. John Odie Slocum, referring to the campaign to bring what has been described as one of the most capable defense systems ever made in the United States to Michigan. I hope they re just blown away by what Selfridge has to offer.

One thing is for sure the visitors will leave knowing the advantages of Selfridge, which is one of five locations being considered to house the F 35.

The other finalists including: Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Ala.; Gowen Field Air Guard Station, Boise, Idaho; Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Florida; and Truax Air Guard Station in Madison, Wis., have already been scoped out.

I take that to mean they ve left the best for last, said Vicky Rad, deputy director for the Macomb County Department of Planning Economic Development, which, along with its director, John Paul Rea, and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel have been instrumental in promoting Selfridge as the ideal home for the next generation fighter aircraft. defense contracts totaling more than $1.4 billion. If the F 35 comes to Selfridge, companies in Macomb County are likely to be even busier. The group also grabbed the attention of the state s leaders with its presentation at the Mackinac Policy Conference, featuring a study by the Michigan Defense Center of Sterling Heights highlighting why Selfridge makes sense for America s next generation of fighter aircraft. and a petition for those who wish to help the cause.

What we have here is a unique network of both base and community partners that are doing everything in their power to get this jet over to Selfridge, Rea said.

We are very confident that the work by Selfridge and the state of Michigan shows that this is the best strategic location, Hackel said, around the time of the conference. If you look at all things being equal, it s really not. We are head and shoulders above other sites.

Slocum would agree.

We have the people. We have the infrastructure,
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and we have the training capability that no one else can match, he said.

Even its history sets it apart from others.

Back in 1917, Selfridge Field was home to some of the nation s greatest aviators including Charles Lindbergh and Eddie Rickenbacker. In 1947, it became known as Selfridge Air Force Base. In 1971, the Michigan Air National Guard took over operation of the base and the current name was put in to use. Today, all branches of the United States military including several Department of Homeland Security agencies operate at Selfridge, which has grown into its own community on the shore of Lake St. Clair. The fact that it borders Canada and the United States and does not share its airfield with any commercial airline is another power point.

We re the only base being considered where we run the entire installation, Slocum said. We operate our own airfield. We set the hours.

And perhaps most important of all because of its infrastructure and operations not a lot has to done in order to accommodate the F 35s and their pilots.

We stand ready, Rea said, of Selfridge, which is the only base in consideration that can hangar 21 F 35s with no added construction necessary. The minimal amount is needed to convert the base for the planes.

That would be around $10 million.

I think we ve got everyone beat on that point, Slocum said, during an interview on the base, which is home to several types of aircraft, including the A 10 Thunderbolt II, an air to ground attack aircraft that would move to another base once the F 35s arrive, and the 127th Wing, which received two of the military s top honors in 2016. Slocum, as its unit commander, was given the Carl A. Spatz Award, and the 127th won the Meritorious Unit Award, for its performance both in combat operations and support of those operations. It s the best flying wing in the Air National Guard, Slocum said.

Now that s a fact the next generation of fighter pilots will be interested in. In addition, Michigan is home to the Alpena Airspace Complex, which is one of the largest airspace ranges east of the Mississippi (over 180 miles by 100 miles), Grayling Range, which offers bombing training by land, and the Huron Bombing Range, which gives pilots an opportunity to train over water. We can simulate the bad guys on the ground, in the air and on the water, Slocum said, in a voice filled with pride and admiration knowing that getting the F 35s to Selfridge would be a great legacy for him to leave behind.

If it is selected, for the next 30 years we will not have to talk about base realignment and closures out here at Selfridge, Hackel said, in the All Systems Go! brochure included in the brief that will be handed out to the Pentagon group.
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