A newly formed group is raising alarms about the planned basing of the F-35 fighter jet at the Vermont Air Guard base in Burlington. Citizens Against Nuclear Bombers in Vermont is holding meetings across the state to discuss what they say is the likelihood the planes will carry nuclear weapons.
Citizens Against Nuclear Bombers in Vermont formed earlier this year following the Department of Defense public release of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Leadership Committee member and retired Air Force Colonel Roseanne Greco is an opponent of basing the F-35 fighter jets in Burlington. She says anti-F-35 and anti-nuclear advocates created the group after reading in the report that the Pentagon designated the F-35 as nuclear capable. “There are quite a few of our aircraft that are nuclear capable. In fact the F-16 was nuclear capable but there’s a difference in being nuclear capable and actually being included in the war planning for a nuclear war. One of the scariest things about the F-35 is that they designed a nuclear bomb specifically for the F-35.”
Campaign Director James Ehlers, a 2018 Democratic candidate for governor, acknowledges that proponents of the F-35 may paint their effort as a last-ditch effort to prevent jet from coming to Vermont. But Ehlers says their focus is nuclear weapons. “We are opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their platforms period. This is our state, a state with a delegation that supposedly embraces nuclear disarmament and here we are hosting this nation’s newest nuclear bomber. For me a nuclear weapons platform does not belong at a commercial civilian airport in a residential neighborhood. There is absolutely no need for the Guard to be hosting a nuclear weapons platform.”
F-35 supporter Nicole Citro founded Green Ribbons for the F-35s in 2012. She says the new group lacks credibility. “Every plane that the Air Force has ever had is nuclear capable. A Cessna is nuclear capable. It just means that an airplane can be retrofitted with whatever the weapons system is going to be. The thing is there has never been a history of nuclear weapons kept in Vermont nor is there a plan to keep nuclear weapons in Vermont. So as they’ve done with other initiatives in the past they use whatever wording they’re finding in documents and they’re manipulating it to make it seem like there’s an issue here when there isn’t. If they would just be honest you know the fact that they are basically anti-military. It’s because of the fact that they do not want a military presence in Vermont and that’s what they’re fighting against.”
On Thursday, two members of the Vermont House will introduce a resolution opposing the basing of any nuclear weapon delivery system in the state.