Activist says F-35s bound for Burlington have a nuclear mission. They don’t. via Politifact

By Colin Meyn


Rachel Siegel, the group’s executive director, sent out an email this week titled “Action Alert: Stop Nuclear bombers coming to Vermont!”

“The F-35 bombers, scheduled to arrive in Burlington this fall, have been designated with a nuclear mission,” she wrote. “This is new information and makes Vermont a target for all other nuclear equipped countries.”

When we looked into this issue in June 2018, no F-35 squadrons had been given a nuclear mission, and information about whether such a mission might one day be assigned to Burlington was iffy. But didn’t seem like a decision that was going to be made within a matter of months. Did something change?

We asked Siegel what she was referring to.

“I misspoke/got it wrong,” she replied. “The F-35 Weapon System does have a nuclear mission; but the individual aircraft have yet to be upgraded to have a nuclear capability.” The upgrade would require software upgrades and retrofitting.

The Vermont National Guard said last year that the military does not, as a matter of policy, discuss where nuclear weapons are located. Capt. Mikel Arcovitch, the Guard’s spokesperson, said Tuesday that the mission of the F-35s was subject to change over time depending on what is required.
“The jets arriving to Burlington will not be nuclear capable,” he added. “There are no plans to add the hardware to make the 158th Fighter Wing F-35s nuclear capable.”

So there are no plans, but the Guard says that plans can change. We reached out to Retired Col. Rosanne Greco, who has been at the fore of the fight against F-35s in Vermont and spent part of her career advising on nuclear targeting.

She conceded that Siegel’s message could be easily misread, but was accurate if you disassemble the parts. F-35 bombers are coming to Burlington (true). And F-35s have a nuclear mission (true).


“The United States is incorporating nuclear capability onto the forward-deployable, nuclear capable F-35 as a replacement for the current aging DCA (dual capable aircraft),” the report says.

The UPI news website reported in November that Lockheed Martin won a $83.1 million award from the Air Force to develop and test equipment for F-35A nuclear capability.


“Whether F-35s will be assigned a nuclear mission is probably something no one will ever know,” Greco said.

Read more at Activist says F-35s bound for Burlington have a nuclear mission. They don’t.

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