The first of 19 projects to prepare for F-35s in Madison has been announced. What’s behind the $9 million plan

MADISON, Wis. — The 115th Fighter Wing awarded the first of 19 military construction contracts to a local building company ahead of the F-35 conversion in Madison.

According to a news release, J.H. Findorff & Sons will assist with the construction. The project is slated to begin in May and will include demolishing a 4,646 square foot facility to make room for a 19,000 square foot F-35 flight simulator facility. The project is estimated to take 18 months to complete and will cost $9 million.

“These full mission simulators are going to be a critical component of the F-35 mission,” said Lt. Col. Charles Merkel, vice commander of the 115th Fighter Wing. “They will be used for both initial pilot training and continuation training for as long as the F-35 is assigned to the unit.”

Unit leadership said the simulator and training could potentially reduce the number of aircraft takeoffs and landings once the F-35s arrive in Madison. In all, it’s the first project of 19 that will reshape Truax Field to meet standards F-35’s require.

“Being able to fly in a virtual environment is a huge step towards the success of the F-35,” said Col. Bart Van Roo, commander of the 115th Fighter Wing.

Findorff has completed numerous other projects at the base, including last year’s renovation of the squadron operations facility and construction of a communications facility in 2009.

The state Department of Military Affairs said the unit will award a total of roughly $100 million in construction projects at the base for the F-35 Lightning II bed down.

These 19 projects will give us state-of-the-art facilities to support the mission that will come along with the F-35,” said Lt. Col Dan Statz of the 115th Fighter Wing.  “Along with the continued homeland defense mission we do already here in Madison.”

In February, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. expressed uncertainty over the Air Force’s reliance on F-35s as a whole. Statz says regardless, the changes at Truax will serve the team working there.

This is the first of 19 projects that support not only the bed down of the F 35 but also improves current missions that we’re executing here to include our homeland defense mission for 24/7 support to airports,” he said.