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Boise Makes Air Force Shortlist to House F-35 Fighter Jets


F-35A Lightning - U.S. AIR FORCE
  • U.S. Air Force
  • F-35A Lightning
It would take a lengthy Environmental Impact Study and string of public hearings before it happens, but the Idaho National Guard confirmed Wednesday that Boise was on the shortlist for the U.S. Air Force to house 18 F-35 fighter jets at Gowen Field. Public officials, including the Idaho congressional delegation, cheered the news, but a good many South Boise residents said they're prepared to fight it all the way.

The U.S. Air Force had hinted it might shift its current fleet of A-10 jets from Gowen to Mountain Home Air Force Base, but state and local officials resisted that move, saying it would doom any chance of the F-35 from coming to Gowen and imperil a significant economic benefit to the Treasure Valley—the Air National Guard's annual budget tops about $300 million, mostly in federal funds.

Meanwhile, South Boise residents aren't too pleased with the possibility of F-35s bringing their afterburners to the sky above their neighborhood. While the A-10's top speed is 440 mph, the  F-35 travels three times faster. Neighbors also regularly complained they were not a part of the previous public process before Boise actively campaigned to house the F-35s.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James announced Wednesday that Boise ranked high among 18 candidates and is now one of only five finalists to house the F-35s. The others are Dannelly Field Air National Guard Base in Alabama, Jacksonville ANGB in Florida, Selfridge ANGB in Michigan and Truax Field ANGB in Wisconsin. Ultimately, two Air National Guard stations will be selected to support 18 to 24 aircraft.

The Air Force will conduct two-week site visits at each base in the coming months before selecting two "preferred" and two "reasonable" alternatives in spring 2017. That will trigger a complete environmental impact analysis and public hearings before the final decision in spring 2019.

Boise Weekly took a "spin" in a faux F-35 cockpit in 2010 and, while the simulated takeoff and landings were impressive, there was no demonstration of the 40,000 pounds of thrust that comes from a typical F-35.

Getting the 101 on the F-35. - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • Getting the 101 on the F-35.

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