Burlington City Council Votes to Request Replacement of F-35

F-35A on takeoff

For Immediate Release

Contact: Air Force Col. Rosanne Greco (ret.) 802 497-0711
Rachel Siegel, Executive Director Peace and Justice Center 802 777-2627
James Marc Leas 802 864-1575

Burlington City Council Votes to Request Replacement of F-35

Council Vote Comes After City’s Electorate Voted to Cancel F-35

The Burlington City Council voted 9-3 to call for replacement of the F-35 at the Burlington International Airport with low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record (the resolution is attached).

“An outstanding decision and a key step toward protecting thousands of families from devastating consequences of F-35 basing,” said James Marc Leas, a patent attorney who helped collect signatures to get the item on the town meeting ballot.

The vote reversed a 2013 city council vote. It comes three weeks after the city’s voters approved a citizen initiative requesting cancellation of the planned F-35 basing at Vermont Town Meeting Day on March 6 (attached).

At town meeting the vote was 6482 (55.3%) in favor to 5238 (44.7%) opposed. Ballot item 6 received a majority in six of the city’s eight wards.

The airport currently hosts 18 F-16 jets flown by the Vermont Air National Guard. The Guard is preparing for the arrival of the 18 F-35 jets in the Fall of 2019 when the F-16s will be retired.


The adopted resolution states:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Burlington City Council values the Air National Guard’s contributions to our community and respectfully requests the Honorable Secretary of the United States Air Force, Heather Wilson, replace the planned basing of the F-35 with a basing of a low-noise-level plane with a proven high safety record, consistent with the ballot question previously cited;

Congressional Delegation: As reported in the Burlington Free Press, “Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch issued a joint statement Monday saying that if the council passes the resolution, they ‘expect the Air Force to respond and answer any questions the Council puts forth.’ The senators and congressman supported bringing the [F-35] plane to Vermont while the Air Force was making the basing decisions several years ago, the three said, to ensure a long-term mission for the Vermont Air National Guard.”

“Among the thousands of documents disclosed by the Air Force in the federal court case were ones demonstrating pressure on the Air Force applied by Senator Leahy. That pressure decisively influenced the original Air Force decision to base F-35 jets at Burlington in 2013,” said Air Force Col. Rosanne Greco (ret). “We will be asking the Senator to respect the vote of the electorate three weeks ago and last night’s vote by the Burlington City Council. We will also be asking him to join the voters and the council in encouraging the Secretary of the Air Force to provide low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record to the Vermont Air National Guard,” Ms. Greco said.

Sound level: The US Air Force Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) states that a person on the ground will be hit with 115 dB when the F-35 is 1000 feet above on takeoff with its afterburner off (attached). The Air Force report indicates that this sound level is more than 4 times louder than the F-16. Noise contour maps in the Air Force report also indicate that the sound level of the F-35 operating in ordinary military power is almost as loud as the sound level of the F-16 operating with afterburner on. 115 dB is the sound level above which even brief exposure causes irreversible damage to hearing.

The center of the City of Winooski is located one mile from the end of the runway. The Air Force does not disclose the anticipated sound level of the F-35 when it reaches Winooski almost immediately after takeoff. However, noise maps in the Air Force EIS indicate F-35 basing will place thousands of its affordable homes in an area that the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration consider “unsuitable for residential use.”

The Air Force report and the Winooski grand list show that more than 3/4 of the housing units in Winooski are in the “unsuitable for residential use” noise danger zone of the F-35.

Burlington’s own Board of Health spent several months in 2013 hearing testimony and reviewing research data regarding health issues caused by fighter jet noise. The Board then adopted a resolution: “the Burlington Board of Health has concluded that noise has been associated with the following health effects: hearing loss, stress, sleep disturbance, heart attacks, hypertension and stroke, and delayed reading and verbal comprehension.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) found that aircraft noise at the level of the F-35 in those 2963 homes causes half the children to suffer delayed reading and degraded concentration, memory and attention.

Affordable homes are in short supply in Chittenden County. Demolished homes and thousands of affordable homes in noise danger zones restrict business development and job growth in the county.

Crash rate: The U.S. Air Force report provides data showing that crash rate will sharply increase when the F-35 comes to replace the F-16 in 2019.

Crash Consequences: Whereas the F-16 body is made of aluminum, the body of the F-35 includes 12,000 pounds of combustible military carbon composite materials with a combustible stealth coating. Upon a crash, when the F-35 body and stealth coating burn in the inferno of thousands of gallons of jet fuel during the time before firefighters arrive, a Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division report states that highly toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic chemicals, particles, and fibers are released.

A report issued by the Air Force Institute for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, states that, unlike the F-16, the F-35 should be included in “the high-risk category due to the high percentage or high quantity of composite materials.” Especially high-risk if the F-35 is based in a densely populated area.

In view of the catastrophic consequences of an F-35 crash, an Air Force report suggests “anticipating and preventing” such an event. In plain English: Prevent basing the F-35 near thousands of families.

Air Guard Mission: Extreme noise danger, high crash rate, and high crash consequences each contradict the Vermont Air National Guard Mission “to protect the citizens of Vermont.”

The F-35 burns vast quantity of oil for war while encouraging war for oil,” said Rachel Siegel, Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center in Vermont. Lockheed Martin says the F-35A is designed for ground attack and long-range detection of air-to-air threats. Siegel noted that with its stealth coating it is a first strike weapon. It is “slated to be armed with the B61 nuclear bomb. Its 1100 gallon per hour consumption of jet fuel contributes to global warming. It cannot protect Vermont from climate change or mega-storms like Hurricane Irene that hit Vermont hard in 2011. Nor can it protect Vermont from cyber-attack, nuclear missiles, terrorism, food insecurity, or income inequality. Nor can it advance the lives of students, women, LGBTQ, people of color, immigrants, refugees, or veterans. The F-35 program drains $1.4 trillion from health care, education, affordable housing, and infrastructure. It does not take on the billionaire class. Or the fossil fuel industry. It does not drive money out of politics. It does not abolish pervasive racism. Or abolish tuition and student debt. It feeds the military-industrial complex. The F-35 encourages war. Its extreme noise and high crash risk endanger our children and adults. F-35 basing contradicts a government that works for all of us and that is accountable to the people.”

Replacement equipment is available for Air Guard: In a submission to the Federal District Court in Rutland on March 7, 2016 the Air Force said, “Had the F-35A not been selected to replace the F-16s, there could have been any number of reasonable alternatives available to the Air Force on how to configure Burlington.”

In his decision in the case, Federal District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford wrote, “there is no evidence of a plan to close the base or to use it for purposes other than flying aircraft.”

At his news conference Friday February 9, though in a slightly backhanded way, Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Steven Cray brought the Vermont National Guard into alignment with US Air Force. He narrowed the usual Guard position this way: “There is no alternative mission being planned for the VT Air National Guard.”

Thus, General Cray accepted the Air Force position that alternative missions are available for the Vermont Air Guard if the F-35 does not come to Vermont, and these missions could be planned.

“The best way to support the men and women in our Vermont Air Guard and its mission ‘to protect the citizens of Vermont’ is for the Air Force to cancel F-35 basing and provide equipment for the Vermont Air Guard that does not harm citizens,” said Mr. Leas.

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