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F-35 Conversion FAQs

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 When does the F-35 Lightning II conversion start for the wing?

The 125 Fighter Wing officially enters conversion when we stand down F-15C Eagle operations, which is anticipated to happen in the fall of 2024. However, preparations are currently underway. Since 2021, a cadre of pilots and maintenance personnel have been completing 1-2 year retraining to master the skills necessary to fly and maintain the new aircraft. Additionally, a number of construction projects began in October 2023 to renovate existing facilities and build new facilities to support the new airframe.

 When can the unit expect to receive its first F-35 aircraft?

The first F-35s will begin arriving in March 2025. It will take approximately 11 months to receive our full complement of F-35s.

 Why was the unit selected to start flying the new aircraft?

The DoD has an extensive process for base selection that takes into account several variables. Early in the selection process they accomplish an Environmental Impact Study to weigh negative impacts due to the change in aircraft. In addition to the environmental studies, they look at proximity to training airspaces, as well as overall base viability. In 2020, after three rounds of consideration, the Secretary of the Air Force selected the 125th Fighter Wing to covert to the new airframe which began our beddown initiatives in the fall of 2020.

 What new projects are required to prepare for the arrival of F-35s?

To ensure the installation is ready to receive the new aircraft, several renovation and construction projects need to occur. In October 2023, construction began on a Full Mission Simulator Building that will give the pilots the ability to train to the full spectrum of threats. In January 2024, construction will begin to widen the M-1 taxiway to accommodate the larger aircraft. In June 2025, construction will begin on a Combined Weapons Facility that will allow our maintainers the ability to train on weapons loading and unloading independent of weather conditions. Additionally, there are smaller construction projects to house practice munitions as well as modify work spaces to account for a redistribution of certain career fields within maintenance.

 Will Airmen undergo special training to support the new flying mission?

All pilots, a majority of maintenance and some logistics personnel will require retraining in order to learn the F-35's unique systems. In October 2022, a core cadre of 33 maintenance personnel began 1-2 year retraining to become familiar with its specific systems, components, and maintenance procedures. Upon completion of training, they will return to the 125th FW to ensure all conversion-affected maintenance personnel are proficient through on-the-job training and continuous learning.

 How does the F-35 conversion posture the 125th Fighter Wing to thrive in today's threat environment?

The conversion to the F-35 is a necessary upgrade to maintain relevancy in today’s threat environment. The F-35 brings stealth capabilities and a sensor package that enables it to operate in areas that 4th Generation aircraft simply cannot. The Air Force needs F-35 squadrons available and fully mission capable to prevail against peer adversaries under contested logistics, during contingency operations, and to produce sufficient readiness during peacetime training. Basing F-35s are the 125th FW ensures Airmen will continue to have a strategic advantage as the unit enhances Agile Combat Employment (ACE) capabilities and global combat readiness. 

 Does the conversion have significant economic or public safety impacts to Jacksonville and surrounding communities?

The conversion brings an estimated construction/renovation costs in excess of $100M. Local businesses will have opportunities to participate in those infrastructure upgrades through normal contracting and solicitation processes. Additionally, the number of personnel serving at the 125th Fighter Wing will remain largely unchanged with pilots and the majority of maintenance and logistics personnel undergoing retraining to be able to support the new airframe. Regarding public safety, the F-35s stationed at Jacksonville International Airport will continue to operate in much of the same way it has in the past – discretely and without an obvious presence to the people of Jacksonville. The F-35 does bring with it an increased focus on Air-to-Ground target discovery and identification. This means that there will be more flights conducted in existing range spaces within the state of Florida – but no new ranges are anticipated to be required.

 Will there be a substantial difference in aircraft noise around the local area?

The F-35 noise profiles were compared with existing F-15C noise profiles during the Environmental Impact Study conducted in 2016. Those noise profiles demonstrate that there will be a slight increase to noise in the immediate proximity to the airport (at lower power settings) than the F-15C. However, takeoffs, en-route flight, and training in the airspace will continue to be minimally different from F-15 operations that have been conducted over the last 20 years.

 What happens to the fleet of F-15s when they leave the installation?

Some of the F-15Cs from the 125th Fighter Wing will go to other F-15C units to augment them. These are the F-15Cs that have the latest upgrades and the most life left on them. The rest will be retired to Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where they will be moth-balled and stored in the desert with other retired aircraft.

 When will the unit part with its last F-15?

The last F-15C is expected to depart in the Fall of 2024.

 When will the conversion process be complete?

Air National Guard units have a maximum of 36 months to finish conversion and to be fully deployable. That timeline begins from when F-15 operations cease.

About the F-35A

The F-35A is the centerpiece of the Air Force's 5th generation multi-domain capability. It is a critical force multiplier for legacy forces. With its aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35A provides the next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the U.S. and allied nations. The Air Force needs F-35 squadrons available and fully mission capable to prevail against peer adversaries under contested logistics, during contingency operations, and to produce sufficient readiness during peacetime training.

Our Strategic Importance

The 125th Fighter Wing is a critical asset for the nation's defense strategy. The Wing provides air defense for the southeastern United States, as directed by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), from Charleston, South Carolina to the southern tip of Florida and across the Florida panhandle. Located at the Jacksonville International Airport, the 125th Fighter Wing is uniquely positioned for further endeavors to include joint basing initiatives. As U.S. Forces engage worldwide in a war against terror, the need for a joint, integrated military force will continue to be essential for success.

F-35 Beddown

In July 2021, a Record of Decision was issued by the U.S. Air Force making the 125th Fighter Wing an official location to host new F-35A Lightning II aircraft. The F-35s are expected to be delivered in multiple phases, with the first aircraft planned to arrive in March 2025 and the final aircraft to arrive in November 2025. Basing the F-35s at the 125th FW ensures Airmen will continue to have a strategic advantage as the unit enhances Agile Combat Employment (ACE) mission capabilities and global combat readiness. Air dominance is critical to the National Defense Strategy and basing F-35s at the 125th FW will only further our service's air superiority goals for 2030 and beyond.