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As the former Wing Commander for the 115th Fighter Wing and someone who has been personally involved in the F-35 basing process for the last five years, I would like to clear up some misinformation that has been shared regarding noise and the F-35s.
Dane County Regional Airport (DCRA) manages a very comprehensive noise abatement program. Although the noise abatement procedures are voluntary for general aviation pilots, they are mandatory for military pilots. These procedures minimize noise to surrounding areas and ensure a high-level of safety. The overwhelming majority of noise complaints filed with DCRA are towards commercial airline and cargo aircraft. The very few noise complaints filed against military aircraft are investigated to ensure pilots executed safe flight profiles and were compliant with noise abatement procedures.
The US Air Force is currently conducting a very detailed environmental impact analysis prior to finalizing the F-35 mission at Truax. As part of that analysis, they will scientifically assess the difference between the noise of the current F-16s based at Truax Field versus the future F-35s. Despite some wild claims by opponents of the Fighter Wing being currently located at Truax, there will be very little if any difference between the F-16 and F-35 with regards to mission, flight profiles, and noise signature. Many individuals will argue that the overall noise impact on the surrounding communities will actually decrease with the F-35.
To better understand this, it is important to understand the primary two different types of power settings in modern fighter aircraft. “Military” power is the maximum power setting of a military jet aircraft without the use of afterburners. “Afterburners” provide an increase in power, usually for takeoff and for combat situations requiring increased thrust. Very strict US Air Force regulations direct the use of afterburners for safety reasons due to takeoff distance which is primarily based upon aircraft weight and weather conditions. Fighter aircraft pilots assigned to Truax Field with the current F-16 use afterburner for takeoff on approximately 50% of their takeoffs. It is expected that the F-35 will rarely takeoff in afterburner. An F-35 in military power will be significantly quieter than an F-16 in afterburner. Which means that in most situations and flight profiles, it is expected that the F-35 noise to the surrounding communities will be less than the F-16.
Our citizen Airmen assigned to Truax Field are our neighbors and friends in our communities. Truax Field has been a part of our community with a US Air Force mission in fighter aircraft for the last 70 years. Madison is very fortunate to get the opportunity to have an Air Guard unit with the most advanced, multi-role fighter aircraft in the world. They deserve our support given their contributions to our great country and state. You may hear the noise of fighter aircraft, but rest assured, it won’t be louder and it’s definitely the sound of freedom!
— Wiegand is a retired Air Force colonel and former wing commander for the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison.