Virginia Beach City Leaders to Push for F-35 Fighter Jets at NAS Oceana

A F-35C Lightning II assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 lands on Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington
A F-35C Lightning II assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 lands on Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), Dec. 8, 2023. (August Clawson/U.S. Navy)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Hardly a day goes by in Virginia Beach when aircraft don’t fly overhead. The U.S. Navy’s East Coast master jet base sits in the middle of the city, and its civilian neighbors inevitably grow accustomed to the rumbles in the sky.

“We coexist,” said Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson.

Naval Air Station Oceana is currently home to F/A-18 Super Hornets, but they eventually will be replaced by a more advanced fighter jet: the F-35.

The F-35 is the Department of Defense’s most advanced and costly weapon system, according to the Government Accountability Office, an audit institution of the federal government. Each aircraft cost more than $100 million. The defense department has about 630 F-35s and plans to buy about 1,800 more. Lockheed Martin, with partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, lead development of the F-35s.

Wilson said she wants Oceana to stick around for a long time and has proposed a resolution, along with other City Council members, showing support for the Navy to bring new, advanced aircraft to Virginia Beach.

The City Council will vote on the resolution Tuesday.

The idea came after Wilson said she had a conversation with Rep. Jen Kiggans, who is a former U.S. Navy pilot.

“She’d (Kiggans) been seeing that a lot of the new planes were going to the West Coast,” said Wilson.

Even though it could be years before the Navy’s advanced aircraft, the F-35C Lightning II, could come to Oceana, Wilson wants it known that “we welcome them.”

“We want to make sure we are out in front of this,” she said.

Kiggans has also publicly announced support for bringing the aircraft to Oceana.

“Starting the process early allows for the numerous studies and regulatory requirements to be completed by the time additional F-35s are assigned to a home base,” Kiggans said a statement.

It’s not the first time Virginia Beach city officials have worked to appease NAS Oceana.

In the early 2000s, Virginia Beach was caught in the crosshairs of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which set its sights on Oceana.

In 2006, the commission decided to maintain the jet base if Virginia Beach committed to limiting development near it. Since then, new land regulations are in place and more than $130 million in state and city funds have been used to acquire non-conforming homes and businesses from willing sellers around the base, according to the city.

Oceana supports 13,000 naval personnel and their families.

“I lived through almost losing it,” said Wilson. “Some people don’t like the noise but you wouldn’t like if there were a lot of houses that couldn’t be sold because people left.”

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