WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield is being selected to receive new fighter jets, welcoming the new fifth generation of fighter planes called F-35s.

These will replace their old F-15s and this new technology comes with major upgrades. 22News spoke with Colonel David Halasikun, he said these new jets are cutting-edge technology, using advanced technology to detect and deter threats with stealth technology capability.

“The F-15 is now coming well past 30 years in service, coming up on 40 years in service, and with that, it’s time to refresh that technology and put the cutting edge here defending the coastlines of America,” 104th FW Commander David Halasikun said.

With these 18 new planes replacing the old ones, it will require some setup on the base to make sure they’re ready to roll including training.

State and local leaders said this is about 5 years in the making to get these jets to Massachusetts
and is a major step forward for the base as well as the city. They’re expecting to start to see those new planes arrive in 2026.

“The 104th Fighter Wing is one of the most accomplished flying units in our nation and yesterday’s announcement ensures that the 104th, and Barnes as a whole, will continue that legacy and will remain a critical part of our national defense strategy for decades to come,” said Senator Velis, who is Chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans’ Committee and a Veteran himself.  “This decision is a testament to all the work that has taken place over the last several years. Specifically, last year’s passage of the SPEED Act signaled to the Department of Defense that Massachusetts is a trailblazer and that our Commonwealth is the best place for military service members to call home.” 

Senator Velis told 22News that part of the process is to make the state stand out for basing decisions and showing National Defense leaders how Massachusetts could not only support service members but also their families. And that was shown through the SPEED Act which passed last year allowing families to relocate more easily.

“From day one the Department of Defense made it explicitly clear to us that they were looking at how states cared for military families in making this decision, and the SPEED Act ensured that we met and exceeded those criteria,” said Senator Velis. “This assignment of F-35A aircraft will bring new and transformative economic investments to our community and will benefit all of Western Massachusetts in the process. I am proud that Massachusetts and the Legislature was able to play a role in making that happen.” 

Barnes ANGB currently employees about a thousand people to run its operations.