SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. — The first F-35 fighter jet that will be based at the Burlington International Airport has taken its first flight with the tail markings of the Vermont Air National Guard.
The Guard said the F-35 left Wednesday from Fort Worth, Texas.
The Vermont National Guard, the first Guard unit in the country to be assigned the F-35s, is due to take delivery at the South Burlington airport of the first aircraft next month.
The Vermont Air National Guard says 20 F-35 jets are coming to Burlington International Airport next year, despite opposition from local leaders.
The Guard has been preparing for years for the arrival of the F-35s, which are replacing the F-16s the Guard flew for decades.
The plan to base the F-35s at the Burlington airport sparked opposition from some who argued the new planes, louder than the F-16s, should not be located near residential neighborhoods.
Nine Vermont Air National Guard pilots have qualified or are in upgrade training to fly the F-35. Another six pilots are scheduled for training before the end of the year.
Hundreds of operations, maintenance, and mission support personnel are also preparing for the arrival of the F-35s, the Guard said.
"They have worked incredibly hard to train and prepare for the arrival of the F-35s and we are ready," said Col. David Smith, commander of the 158th Fighter Wing.
The Air Guard base in Burlington is undergoing $117 million in upgrades, scheduled to be completed by next summer.
While the first plane is due to arrive in September an official arrival ceremony is scheduled for October.