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Efforts to house F-35 jets in Jacksonville taking flight

Jacksonville seeking bid to house jets

There was a lot going on in Jacksonville today if you simply looked up.

The Blue Angels were the highlight of an air show, but so were the F-35s specifically because there’s a push to get these jets to Jacksonville permanently.

These state-of-the-art jets have been on the minds of local lawmakers for years. It was in 2017 when Jacksonville lost its bid to start housing the jets with the 125th Fighter Wing up by the airport.

But earlier this year, Rep. John Rutherford joined Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with a renewed push to bring the F-35s to Jacksonville.

In a letter last month to the secretary of the Air Force, Rutherford wrote, “Northeast Florida is home to world-class military installations like the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville.”

In fact, Rutherford has been in town continuing this push.

“And I had an opportunity, just yesterday, actually, to speak to the new Air Force secretary, Dr. Barrett, Secretary Barrett, and she knows the importance of the F-35 to recapitalizing our air wing here in Jacksonville, and we’ve had some great conversations about that,” Rutherford said.

Crowds were awed by the jets, which are versatile enough to fly at Mach 1, but slow all the way down to highway speed at 50 mph.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Dojo Olson was the first pilot to take the jet in the air over Jacksonville Beach, stunning onlookers on the ground.

“We’re going to fly directly over the beach,” Olson said. “Right over people’s heads, enter into what’s called the showbox, and that’s our little protected species of airspace that we can do all of our flipping and flopping and loop.”

In 2017, when Jacksonville lost its first bid to house F-35’s, the Air Force selected bases in Wisconsin and Alabama instead.

There is no word yet from the Air Force on which base it will next select for the F-35s.