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Vermont Air National Guard preparing for arrival of F-35s

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 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.

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, 158th Fighter Wing, Burlington Air National Guard Base, prepare to depart from the base for other locations during a
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, 158th Fighter Wing, Burlington Air National Guard Base, prepare to depart from the base for other locations during a "Viper Out" ceremony at South Burlington, Vt., April 6, 2019. The last four F-16s of the VTANG are leaving after 33 years of service ahead of F-35 Lightning IIs arriving later in 2019. (Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell/Air National Guard)

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.

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