The Alabama National Guard on Friday showed off what officials called the world's most technologically advanced combat aircraft at a ceremony and flight show in Montgomery, a celebration that signaled an important role in national military preparedness and a chance to carry on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Alabama's 187th Fighter Wing was picked by the Air Force as a home base for the F-35A Lighting II stealth fighter jets in 2017. The Air Force affirmed that decision after an environmental analysis in 2020. After what officials said was much preparation and planning, the first three jets arrived in Alabama in December. The 187th Fighter Wing is the third Air National Guard unit to receive the new fifth-generation jets, which will replace the F-16.
At Friday's ceremony, Col. Brian Vaughn, commander of the 187th Fighter Wing, told hundreds of soldiers, airmen, officers, public officials and others that 187th would be ready to use the F-35s in the same spirit that the Tuskegee Airmen, known as the Red Tails, protected American bombers in the skies over Europe.
“This has been years coming,” Vaughn said. “Lots of sweat and tears. Lots of hard work. Lots of conversations. Lots of long hours. But today it's here.
“We're excited to celebrate this day as we take the traditions, the excellence, the dedication, the selfless sacrifice of the Tuskegee Airmen into the next decade and hopefully the next century.”