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First F-35 fighter jet arrives in Madison as Wisconsin airmen embark on new mission

<i>WISN</i><br/>The first F-35 fighter jet arrived at Truax Field in Madison Tuesday
The first F-35 fighter jet arrived at Truax Field in Madison Tuesday

By Matt Smith

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    MADISON, Wisconsin (WISN) — The first F-35 fighter jet arrived at Truax Field in Madison Tuesday, the culmination of years of work and controversy after the U.S. Air Force selected Madison’s 115th Fighter Wing as one of two locations nationwide to fly and house the new jets.

Lt. Col. Mike Koob, a pilot from Waunakee, flew and landed the first ceremonial flight Tuesday after undergoing three years of training and six previous deployments, including to Afghanistan and Kuwait.

“Today was a great day, as you could imagine,” Koob said.

Opponents, including some Democratic lawmakers, long protested Tuesday’s arrival, voicing concerns about noise and pollution.

The F-35s, which will be flown by Wisconsin airmen, replace the F-16s that were housed at the 115th for some 30 years.

Officials said Tuesday the 115th is “singularly focused” on the new mission and emerging worldwide threats.

“This is the most advanced weapon system the Air Force has ever fielded, and so this is the cutting edge,” Wisconsin’s Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp told 12 News political director Matt Smith in an interview.

In total, 20 F-35s are expected to arrive in Madison during the next year as pilots continue training alongside some $150 million in upgrades at the 115th.

“We’re in a period of conversion,” Knapp said. “It’s about a three-year period, give or take.”

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