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The first F-16 based at Truax Field leaves for good as F-35 transition continues

The first F-16 fighter stationed at Truax Field departs as the base makes way for next...
The first F-16 fighter stationed at Truax Field departs as the base makes way for next generation planes.(115th Fighter Wing via Facebook)
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 11:23 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Members of the 115th Fighter Wing said goodbye to the first F-16 ever stationed at Truax Field as the Wisconsin National Guard continues preparing for the next generation of fighters to arrive.

In a post on Facebook, the Guard shared images of the jet, numbered 252, explaining that it first touched down in Madison in April 1993. At that time, Truax Field housed the A-10 Thunderbolt II and was starting its upgrade to the F-16s.

Nearly three decades later, the Guard is upgrading again, this time from fourth-generation aircraft to the fifth-gen F-35 Lighting II. Deputy Adjutant General Gen. David May described the upgrade as “moving from a flip phone to a smartphone” during an August groundbreaking ceremony for the base’s first major F-35 project.

When all is said and done, Truax Field is expected to support 18 of the fighters, as opposed to the 21 F-16s currently there. They are due to start arriving in 2023, but their arrival is not coming without controversy.

In April 1993, 252 was the first F-16 we received when transitioning from the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Today it is the first F-16 to leave as we begin our transition to the F-35 Lightning II.

Posted by 115th Fighter Wing on Thursday, October 14, 2021

Some community members and local politicians have railed against the transition since it was first announced, claiming the F-35s will harm the environment and cause physical and psychological harm to the people who live in Dane Co.

“This is where people live, this is where people go to school, this is where our kids grow up, this is where our kids play, we can do better than this and we’re here as a community today to take that stand,” State Rep. Francesca Hong (D- Madison) said during a June protest.

The first F-16 fighter stationed at Truax Field departs as the base makes way for next...
The first F-16 fighter stationed at Truax Field departs as the base makes way for next generation planes.(115th Fighter Wing via Facebook)

Opponents argued the noise generated by the jets would negative affect the community and would affect low-income and minority population the most. The Air Force’s own study confirmed the latter assertion finding “significant disproportionate impacts” to those individuals as well as to children.

As far as noise, the Air Force used a cumulative measure that measures the overall noise exposure from both military and civilian aircraft to determine approximately 2,200 people would be exposed to a 64 decibel Day Night Average Sound Level. That’s about 10 percent lower than the 65-decibel level the Federal Aviation Administration considers “incompatible with residential communities.”

People in affected areas could be eligible for an FAA program that provides mitigation, such as soundproofing, for people affected by a noise level that would cause “significant annoyance for most residents.”

Supporters though celebrated the decision when it was first announced in April of last year. The Madison Chamber of Commerce called it “much-needed positive news for Greater Madison” and cited statistics that indicated having the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field is a $100 million boon for the local economy.

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