The St. Louis County Board will join a chorus of community voices raised in support of Duluth's 148th Fighter Wing and its effort to receive the F-35 - the U.S. military's latest combat jet.
The board will vote on a resolution of support for the 148th at its meeting on Tuesday at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth.
"The 148th Fighter Wing is an exemplary part of the nation's military support network," a County Board letter said in advance of the vote. "Receiving F-35 aircraft will help secure their place in consideration of what bases should continue to be supported well into the future."
The resolution figures to be approved and a delegation from the local air base will appear at the meeting, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
"The resolution of support (would be) yet another example of how our community stands behind us, strongly, and in support of our future," said Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka of the Minnesota Air National Guard and spokesperson for the 148th Fighter Wing. "Such strong and vocal community support does not go unrecognized at the national level, and it will go a long way in securing the future of the Wing as our leadership charts our course towards next generation aircraft."
The decision on placing F-35s in Duluth rests with the National Guard Bureau, Air Combat Command and Secretary of the Air Force. When a base is making its bid for major upgrades, a show of community support is necessary to help influence decision-makers.
"It takes some work in the community, legislatively, kind of a grassroots effort to say, 'We want F-35s in Duluth,'" Col. Chris Blomquist, commander of the 148th Fighter Wing, told the News Tribune in January.
The County Board support comes as Duluth builds toward a visit to Washington, D.C.
"The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee is leading an initiative to encourage Congress and military leadership in Washington to support the continued advancement of the base by identifying them as appropriate recipients of new F-35 aircraft," the board letter said.
No base wants to be the last with aging technology. In 2010, the 148th Fighter Wing was the recipient of a fleet of Block 50 F-16s - the latest of its kind that does not need to be replaced until the 2030s.
The push this year to bring F-35s to Duluth follows a failed bid in 2016, when the 148th Fighter Wing was left off a list of air bases being considered for the Air Force's fifth generation fighter jet.
In the past Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other legislators and local groups have made their support official for F-35s in Duluth.
"The 148th Fighter Wing is a proud partner of the Northland and we're very grateful for the decades of dedicated support from our community neighbors," Kapustka said. "We simply would not be able to accomplish our important mission without their backing."