Protesters say F-35 jets are climate crisis and racial justice issues

F-16 Fighting Falcons from Madison, Wis. fly alongside an F-35 Lightning II. The Department of...
F-16 Fighting Falcons from Madison, Wis. fly alongside an F-35 Lightning II. The Department of the Air Force selected Truax Field, Wis., and Dannelly Field, Ala., for the next two Air National Guard F-35A Lightning II locations.((Photo courtesy of Scott Wolff))
Published: Oct. 17, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2021 at 5:24 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - On Sunday, people of faith gathered to protest the plan to base F-35 military jets at the Air National Guard base at Madison’s Truax Field. Dozens of them had decorated their cars and bicycles with anti-F-35 signs and flags.

“We are mobilizing people to form a bicycle and car caravan, to raise awareness to the fact that Madison does not want to become a training site for the F-35 warplanes which are planned to come here,” Safe Skies Clean Water volunteer Timothy Cordon said. Protestors said it is a climate crisis problem as these jets create more pollution and carbon emissions.

Truax Field is expected to support 18 of the fighters, which are due to start arriving in 2023, but their arrival is not coming without controversy.

“It’s a climate crisis problem, we are burning more carbon with these planes, and each plane costs us about $110.3 million. That’s money out of our pockets out of our tax dollars, that should be going to making a climate, moving us towards climate justice, rather than increasing our ability to destroy lives and destroy the planet,” Cordon said. Noise concerns are one reason why protesters said allowing these jets in Madison is a racial justice issue.

An Air Force study released last year 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.”

“The neighborhood that’s most affected by this has a larger population of people of color, and they’ve already got enough to deal with racial disparities, adding more disturbance more noise more pollution to their neighborhood is wrong,” Cordon said. The Air Force’s own study confirmed the latter assertion finding “significant disproportionate impacts” to those individuals as well as to children.

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.

The Wisconsin National Guard also lauded the economic benefits of the state-of-the-art fighters in Madison, claiming it will bring 1,200 part-time jobs and 500 full-time jobs to the area. The Guard’s statement noted the $100 million influx as well, adding that it will flow into the community for decades. Additionally, it estimated the cost to refit Truax for F-35′s could run between $90 and $120 million; money that will go, in part, to base and local contractors.

“The 115th Fighter Wing is committed to being good neighbors and continuing to work with the community,” Wisconsin National Guard spokesperson Maj. Joe Trovato said. “We understand that some in the community have concerns, but our hope is that we can continue to work together as a community to address those concerns.”

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