F15 Fighter Jets Staying in Great Falls- For Now


Senator Jon Tester met with members of the Central Montana Defense Alliance Friday afternoon, briefing them about current plans for the F-15 flying mission and the C-130.

Just before the meeting he received some very important news from the Department of Defense.

The Montana Air National Guard’s F-15 fighter jets are staying in Great Falls…for now.

Tester tells ABC 5 that the DOD has backed off on plans to move the F-15 to Fresno until the end of 2013, that means that the mission gap between the time the F-15 is scheduled to fly out to Fresno and when those eight C-130's come to Montana will be a shorter length of time.

The Department of Defense says it will stop scheduled air force transfers until congress finalizes its 2013 budget plans later this year. Tester says he got word from Leon Panetta Friday that the F-15 will remain at MANG for an additional 15 to 16 months.

If things go as planned eight C-130's will be transitioned to the Treasure State in the first quarter of 2014 and Tester says if that mission is secured, that will ensure a flying mission at the Montana Air National Guard for decades to come.

Montana’s Congressional Delegate says when he found out materials were getting boxed up he took action.

“What’s really important about this is number one we’ve got the best airspace in the world for training, bar none. The airspace between here and North Dakota is the best airspace we have in this country that’s the first thing, second thing is if those airplanes move out as anticipated, the mission gap between July of 2012 and January of 2014 when the eight C-130’s could potentially come in at the earliest point, is a year and a half, that’s too long. We worked with the Department of Defense to get this stopped now and we were successful,” says Tester.

Tester also says this decision has nothing to do with the recent lawsuit Governor Schweitzer and Attorney General Bullock filed, blocking the transfer of the F-15.

Senator Max Baucus says “with the F-15 victory now secured, we've got to roll up our sleeves and continue working together to see to it that the C-130 mission arrives on gore hill as planned."

And Attorney General Bullock says “this move would have caused irreparable harm to the operations of the Montana Air National Guard, to the morale of the guard members and to the safety and security of the state of Montana. That is why my office filed a lawsuit and sought a temporary restraining order to assist in the effort to protect the air national guard's mission."