New jet may save Hooligans
A new stealth fighter jet adds fuel to North Dakota's fire for a military aviation training ground, Sen. Kent Conrad said Wednesday. The U.S.
A new stealth fighter jet adds fuel to North Dakota's fire for a military aviation training ground, Sen. Kent Conrad said Wednesday.
The U.S. military is turning to the F-22 Raptor, a faster and stealthier fighter, to meet its future air-strike needs.
And North Dakota's wide-open skies would make good training space for the fast-flying jets, Conrad told members of the news media Wednesday at the Air National Guard Base in north Fargo.
The state's Air Space Initiative, an effort to turn North Dakota's skies into the nation's largest air combat training ground, is catching on with Pentagon brass, said Conrad, D-N.D.
"There's an increasing buzz about it," Conrad said. "There's strong interest in the potential for this in the future."
Conrad said state and military officials have worked out differences with the commercial aviation industry regarding the state's airspace. Both parties, he said, agree that North Dakota could support an air warfare training program.
The initiative could also help save the Happy Hooligans, the Air National Guard's 119th Fighter Wing, from the next round of military base closures, Gov. John Hoeven said.
Conrad, Hoeven, National Guard officers and members of the Happy Hooligans base retention group met Wednesday to discuss strategies in saving the base.
The military is developing its 2005 base realignment and closure (BRAC) plan.
The plan is expected to be the "mother of all base closings," Conrad said.
A local base retention group, made up mostly of city officials, North Dakota's congressional delegation and business leaders, has hired The Spectrum Group, a consulting company, to help keep the 119 Fighter Wing in operation.
The air base has a direct economic impact of about $42 million on the Fargo-Moorhead area, said Adjutant Gen. Mike Haugen of the North Dakota National Guard.
Dick Walstad, president of Fargo's Cook Sign Co. and chairman of the base retention group, said the consultant's preliminary report should be available next week.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526