A group of local military and business leaders is headed to Washington DC.
Their mission: convince the decision-makers that Duluth is the right place for the F-35.
The F-35 is the newest aircraft in the US military and Duluth community leaders want to make sure the Northland is on the shortlist to land the planes.
“It’s a long process. It’ll take a bit of time, but it starts tomorrow,” said committee member Pat Mullen, who is also the Sr. Vice President for SR VP External Affairs at Allete.
The Duluth Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee will meet with legislative delegates on Wednesday and the Pentagon on Thursday.
They plan to highlight the 148th Fighter Wings’ successes, access to premium airspace, and highly-trained personnel.
“We have just got the best workforce up here in the Duluth area, the community fully supports us getting the newer aircraft, and we are very familiar with this mission,” said Col. Chris Blomquist, Commander of the 148th.
The 148th currently flies the F-16, which was developed back in the 1970’s.
“Imagine your car, if there are any cars out there still on the road from the 70s – that is the F-16 that we fly today with a lot of modifications and a lot of software updates but you can only do so much,” said Blomquist.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is computer based, with the latest in stealth technology, making it easier and safer to fly.
Landing it here would also mean the jobs and spending the Air National Guard brings to the Northland doesn’t go away.
“It really is a much longer timeline and it secures the mission here in the Duluth area for decades to come,” said Mullen.
The Committee will be in Washington, DC for two days.
If they’re successful, it could still be five years before the first F-35s take to the skies over the Northland.