Read the Arizona Daily Star’s report today that the F-35 joint striker will be based at Luke AFB in Glendale, and not here at Tucson International Airport (TIA). Read the article by clicking here or a longer version on the front page of the Star.
I wrote about this issue back in February/March (click here) when the open houses about the F-35 were held around Southern Arizona. Having attended the one at Roskruge Elementary School in Tucson, I can attest that the crowd that night (over 200 to 300 people coming and going) was divided between those military personnel who want the F-35 here, and those neighbors who vehemently oppose it and are doubtful that the noise impact would be minimal. Some of those in opposition even asked that the F-35 be temporarily sent here for a one week trial, for people to experience the noise level (up to 104 decibels?) first hand. (See www.tucsonforward.com)
Bases where the F -35 will also be stationed: Hill AFB in Utah, Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont.
So, for now, TIA is not one of the chosen bases, but still may be in the future.
Here’s a copy of the July 29 press release from the Arizona Air National Guard, 162nd fighter wing (http://www.162fw.ang.af.mil/):
“Air Force recommends F-35s for Luke, Tucson still a contender
TUCSON, Ariz. – U.S. Air Force officials announced today the service’s recommendations for where to base the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Though Tucson was not among the three semi-finalist locations, it remains a viable candidate. For F-35 training, the Air Force named Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., as the preferred alternative. As F-35 operational bases, both Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and Burlington Air Guard Station, Vt., got nods.
Last October, officials announced the Arizona Air National Guard unit at Tucson International Airport was one of the top five locations under consideration for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter training. Six other bases were on a short list for F-35 operations.
The recent announcement indicates the Air Force is narrowing the field, yet a final record of decision is expected for spring of 2011.
“We were certainly hoping to be one of the first bases to get the F-35, but the Air Force’s recommendation to base them at Luke for training is very encouraging,” said Brig. Gen. Greg Stroud, 162nd Fighter Wing commander. “Luke and Tucson enjoy all of the same ingredients that make for perfect pilot training conditions; weather, airspace, ranges and fantastic community support. Our chances for F-35s in the future are as strong as ever.”
In March, the Air Force conducted a series of public scoping meetings in Southern Arizona as part of an F-35 Environmental Impact Statement. According to Stroud, the environmental study will continue as planned and a draft statement will be available for public comment later this year.
“We encourage the community to continue their participation in the F-35 basing process. The study being conducted now will apply when the Air Force takes another look at Tucson as future home for new fighter,” he said.
The three installations recommended today move a step closer to housing the first 250 to 300 F-35s scheduled for delivery through 2019. With a total of 1,763 F-35s scheduled for purchase through 2035, Tucson will have numerous opportunities to host the new jet.
“We train international pilots, and Luke trains active duty U.S. pilots in the F-16. Their need to ramp up F-35 training will come much sooner than our need. By all indications from the Air Force’s survey of our capability to maintain and operate F-35s, we’re a strong possibility in the next round. I’m confident that the F-35 will one day be part of the wing’s mission,” Stroud said.
The F-35 is the next generation strike fighter bringing cutting-edge technologies to the battle space of the future. In the Air Force, the F-35 will primarily service an air-to-ground role; replace aging F-16 and A-10 aircraft while complementing the F-22. The Navy and Marine Corps plan on using the F-35, along with international partners.
The Arizona Air National Guard has flown fighters from its base in Tucson since 1956 when the unit flew the Korean War era F-86A. Through six decades and seven different fighter aircraft the unit has served in air sovereignty and fighter training missions. The last time a new aircraft came to the wing was in 1985 when the unit accepted its first F-16 Fighting Falcon.”