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Rep. Stauber and Community Leaders Discuss F-35's in 148th Fighter Wing

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: July 19, 2019 07:27 PM

The F-35 fighter jet is known as being the most advanced aircraft in the world. Rep. Pete Stauber and community leaders tried a simulated version of it at Cirrus Aircraft Friday and talked about the potential of getting F-35's in the 148th Fighter Wing.

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“The biggest reason why the 148th Fighter Wing is ready for joint strike fighters now and near the future is because of our great people and work force that we have here in Duluth,” Chris Blomquist, the 148th Fighter Wing Commander, said.

Blomquist assured elected officials and community leaders that the base is well prepared for that opportunity when it happens.

"We do the same mission that the joint strike fighter currently does, which is Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses(SEAD) mission. We have the best infrastructure in the U.S. for flying the joint strike fighter. It would be the quickest, easiest, and most cost effective unit to transition the F-35 in,” Blomquist said.

The advanced aircraft would provide better protection for pilots on missions.

“It’s very low observable. It can get in without being observed on radar, release a weapon, and get out and survive,” said Michael Otterblad, the government affairs person for Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and global security company.

"This aircraft will keep our pilots safe and will keep our wing employed for a long time. If I have to send my pilots to combat in a F-16 versus a F-35, a F-35 is much survivable," Blomquist said.

The fighter jet flies 1.6 times the speed of sound. It’s recognized for its stealth and sensor fusion.

“It's a marathon, not a sprint, to get the F-35 appropriated to the 148th Fighter Wing. We are willing to do that and as a member of congress, it’s a high priority,” Rep. Pete Stauber, said.

Stauber tested the fighter jets full potential through a F-35 simulator. It provided a close look of the F-35's capabilities.

"The demo pilot was there with me showing me the technology in the aircraft. The survivability and lethality of the aircraft is unparalleled,” Stauber said.

Sitting in the cockpit and experiencing the jets potential through the simulator, truly shows why local leaders want these jets in the Northland.

“The F-35 provides more survivability most importantly so airman and pilots can come back from their missions,” Otterblad said.

Otterblad said this would be an economic plus to the state as well, and it already shows. There’s currently 24 companies in the state that are tied to their F-35 Minnesota program that contributes more than $134 million annually to the state's economy.

The F-35's will be seen in action this weekend at the Duluth Air Show.

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Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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