Air Force to host meetings with the public on Barnes Air National Guard Base F-35 or F-15EX upgrades


Jim Kinney

WESTFIELD — The National Guard Bureau and the Air Force will meet with Westfield residents this month — in person and online — to talk over plans to bring next-generation fighter jets to Barnes Air National Guard Base and the 104th Fighter Wing.

In 2021, the Pentagon included Barnes on a short list of possible locations for new aircraft to replace its aging F-15C fleet. The possibilities are F-15EX planes, updated from the F-15C, or the latest F-35As.

State and local officials are pushing hard for the F-35As because getting the latest aircraft would ensure the base’s future for longer and mean more people employed at Barnes.

The in-person meeting will be from 5-7 p.m. Aug. 18 at Westfield Intermediate School, 350 Southampton Road.

In an email, the National Guard said this meeting will be an open-house style information session with project team members available to answer questions. The guard recommends arriving by 6 or 6:30 p.m. to have time to visit the information stations. There will not be a formal presentation.

The virtual meeting will be from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Aug. 24. The links and background information are available at a website established by the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau:

Westfield has competition: The Air Force said this week that it will base F-15EX jets at two of three possible sites and F-35As at just one of four bases.

Fresno Air National Guard Base in California and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans are, like Westfield, in the running for either aircraft. Naval Air Station Lemoore in California is being considered for the F-35A only.

In June U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Gov. Charlie Baker and others pitched Westfield as a welcoming community to Pentagon bass including the Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. Kendall, a native of Richmond, Massachusetts, graduated from high school in Pittsfield.

An F-15C from the 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard, departs Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, for Barnes Air National Guard Base, Mass., Aug. 12, 2011.

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