Montgomery’s Maxwell Air Force Base receives $18M for new air traffic control tower
According to a press release on Wednesday from the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Maxwell Air Force Base has been selected by the United States Air Force to receive $18 million for the construction of a new air traffic control tower facility “for the purpose of force protection and safety.”
This comes on the heels of Maxwell landing the F-35 fleet and an Air Force innovation hub and signifies Montgomery’s growing military mission and worldwide impact. Construction is expected to begin in June 2019 and conclude December 2020.
In a statement, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense, lauded the Air Force’s investment.
“The Air Force’s decision to direct $18 million to Maxwell for a new air traffic control tower is outstanding news,” Shelby said. “This needed upgrade will increase the base’s functionality by improving the structural conditions and enhancing the safety and visibility of all operations. Without the replacement tower, the current facility’s health and safety issues could result in ground accidents and costly damage or loss of assets.”
He continued, “I applaud the Air Force on their decision to fund the project. As the second busiest distinguished visitor base in the nation, this funding is critical to maintaining and advancing Maxwell’s performance, particularly in light of its support for the F-35 fighter jet program.”
Shelby was joined in his praise of the announcement by Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2), who represents most of Montgomery, including Maxwell, in the House. She has advocated for this project for years.
“Updating the air traffic control tower at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base is long overdue. I have personally climbed up the antiquated tower and can attest to how dangerous it is and how badly it needs to be replaced,” Roby explained.
“I am very pleased that this issue is being addressed through the recently passed military funding bill, and I look forward to seeing this improvement become reality as Maxwell continues to support the needs of the Air Force in the River Region, including the 187th Fighter Wing’s missions,” Roby continued.
The congresswoman from Montgomery also praised Shelby’s historic leadership for Alabama.
“This would not be possible without Senator Shelby’s efforts, and I appreciate his leadership as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense,” Roby said.
Maxwell played a role in the Air Force’s recent selection of Dannelly Field, also located in Montgomery, as a site for the new F-35A fighter jet program. This powerful new aircraft is a fifth-generation fighter jet that will eventually replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s, which have been the primary fighter aircraft for more than 20 years.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange outlined, “This allocation is more than a construction project – this signifies that the Air Force and our congressional delegation recognizes and supports the long-term national significance of Montgomery’s military installations, international students, thought leadership, cyber defense and business systems it supplies to the Air Force. Along with the new MGMWerx innovation center and technology strategy, this is a key piece of infrastructure that will support the F-35 and open new opportunity for Montgomery.”
In a separate release from Shelby’s office, it was noted that, for the last decade, Maxwell has been in need of a modernized air traffic control tower facility of adequate size and configuration in order to properly control current activity and future air traffic within the air operations area. The existing tower, which was constructed in 1955, is believed to be the second oldest active in the Air Force’s inventory and fails to meet current mission requirements.
Maxwell is the second busiest distinguished visitor base in the Defense Department. Of significant concern, controllers in the current tower do not have 100 percent visual contact of all aircraft landing surfaces or ground controlled movement areas due to obstructed views. Additionally, the facility does not have an elevator and therefore does not meet National Fire Protection Association line safety code, amongst numerous other health and safety issues resulting from the tower’s age and deterioration.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn